Rumor vs Reality: If you are offered the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, should you laugh in your doctor's face? Or is the Johnson and Johnson vaccine still a good one with more protection than you may realize? Rumor vs Reality, let's talk about it.
Today, I'm going to address the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. I have been hearing all kinds of rumors versus reality on social media, on the telephone among friends, among family members, and people have been really giving the Johnson and Johnson vaccine a bad rep. But today, I'm going to break it down. Rumor vs Reality: Is it something that should be laughed at? Or is it actually a good vaccine with more protection than you realize?
I'm going to cover four topics.
1. COVID-19 Vaccines Compared
I'll discuss the difference between the messenger RNA vaccines, like the Pfizer and Moderna, and the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. I'll talk about the difference in the science of the vaccine.
2. COVID-19 Vaccination Data
I'll talk about what percentage of protection you get from the messenger RNA vaccines versus the Johnson and johnson vaccine, and I'll discuss the implications of that data.
3. Is It Fair To Compare?
Is it fair to compare the mRNA vaccines with Johnson and Johnson vaccine given that the studies took place during different time periods?
The Johnson and Johnson vaccine was tested while we had variants. Those same variants weren't around for Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. So is it fair to compare?
4. Would I Take The Johnson and Johnson Vaccine?
I will answer the question: What would I do?
If I were offered the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, what would I do? I'll answer that question and I'll answer it honestly.
1. COVID-19 Vaccines Compared
So at this point, you probably have heard quite a bit about the mRNA vaccines, that's the Pfizer and the Moderna Coronavirus Vaccines. These vaccines consist of mRNA or messenger RNA platform, so there is a genetic material that is delivered via the mRNA.
The information on how to make a portion of the coronavirus is placed into the mRNA, the spike protein. And so when you get an mRNA vaccination, you don't actually have the real coronavirus, or the real COVID-19 injected into your body. All you have is an mRNA that has a message on how to make the spike protein. So the mRNA is delivered through a little lipid or fat-like nanoparticle. It binds to your muscle cells, and then it tells your body, the ribosomes, to create proteins, do protein synthesis.
They make up all kinds of spike proteins and then your body creates antibodies that, like a blanket go and cover a spike protein, if you should actually be infected with COVID-19. So you get the vaccination and then your body makes antibodies against the spike protein, which protects you.
That's the mRNA technology.
Johnson and Johnson
Now with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, it uses something different. It uses a common cold virus, an adenovirus. But what it does is weakens the virus, and so that adenovirus is not able to ever replicate in your body. Also, the genetic material of the spike protein is inserted into the adenovirus so that adenovirus acts kind of like a Trojan horse, where it goes into the body and your body's cells then produce again, spike proteins, and your body creates antibodies against the spike proteins.
Again, this adenovirus that is used can not make you sick because it has been weakened to the point where it can not replicate in your body. The only thing that will replicate will be the messages for the protein synthesis of the spike protein. Again, it's not the COVID-19, you can't get sick from the Johnson and Johnson vaccination. It's not actually giving you COVID-19 disease.
Do Covid-19 Vaccines Require More Than One Shot?
The other important difference for the mRNA vaccines, the Moderna and the Pfizer, is that they require two doses. With the Pfizer COVID vaccination, the doses are to be three weeks apart, with the Moderna, four weeks apart.
So you're primed by the first dose and then you get that second dose, which really boosts your immunity. With the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, it's a one-shot wonder. You get one shot and that's it. So all of the immunity that you get, at least in the trials that have been done thus far, is from the one shot.
Coronavirus Vaccination Storage
The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines do require colder storage, especially the Pfizer vaccine, which is stored at freezing temperature. Whereas with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, it can be stored in a refrigerator, something like 36 degrees, and it can last for months. So what this means is that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine can be stored more easily and preserved longer with less expense than the messenger RNA vaccines.
2. COVID-19 Vaccination Data
This is what has everybody talking and has created all the rumors out there. So let's talk about the data. When the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine results came out, everyone was exceedingly pleased because this was better than we even could have hoped for.
The efficacy of these messenger RNA vaccines is between 94 and 95%, meaning that if you get both doses of either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, then you have approximately a 95% chance of being immune to getting sick from COVID-19, you're immune to getting the COVID-19 disease.
And what's even better than that is that you have approximately a 100% chance of not getting severely ill, meaning that there's almost no chance that, if you've gotten both doses of these messenger RNA vaccines, of you going to the hospital or of you experiencing death due to COVID-19.
Initial Vaccine Results
These were the first two vaccines approved with Emergency Use Authorization in the United States, and this has set the standard. So now we have the preliminary results of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, and these results show that the vaccine has a 66% efficacy against moderate to severe COVID-19 disease.
And when it comes to efficacy against severe disease, as in getting hospitalized or dying from COVID-19, there is an 85% efficacy. So let's break that down. That 66% efficacy is a global efficacy, meaning that there's a 66% chance that you won't get the COVID-19 disease worldwide if you get the one dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
In the United States, in particular, though there was a 72% efficacy. No, that's not the 95% efficacy that we got from the messenger RNA trial. But picture it. If you have no vaccine at all, then you have an extremely high chance of getting COVID-19 disease. But if you get the vaccine, looking at the United States data, you could have a 72% chance of being protected and then globally a 66% chance of being protected.
Let's talk about getting sick. There is an 85% chance with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine that even if you get the infection, you won't be in the hospital and you won't die. So that means that you can get the COVID-19 disease and maybe experience some flu-like symptoms but there's an 85% chance that you can settle on, that you won't actually die or go to the hospital.
Now, imagine if it's your grandma or a loved one and they have a choice between no vaccine or the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. If your grandma has this vaccine, even if she gets the COVID-19 infection, even if she gets the disease, there's an 85% chance that she won't die from COVID-19. That puts things into perspective a little bit.
And then, of course, we're dealing with the variant. During this Johnson and Johnson trial, yes, some of these variants have come about. Now I'm sure you've heard of the UK variant the South African variant, the Brazilian variant. Well, we found out from the Johnson and Johnson trial that it can only be effective in about 57% of the South African variant. But because this variant had not been established during the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, we really don't know how these trials would have turned out had these variants been present and surging during those experiments.
3. Is It Fair To Compare The Coronavirus Vaccines?
There are so many people making memes and laughing at the Johnson and Johnson vaccine because it doesn't have 95% efficacy, but can you really do a head-to-head comparison of these messenger RNA vaccines with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine? In other words, had we done the Moderna and Pfizer trials right now when we've got the UK variant when we got the South African variant, and the Brazilian variant, do we know that we would have had 95% efficacy?
There's already some indication that even though we do expect to have some coverage from the Pfizer/Moderna vaccines against the variants, very likely we won't have as much coverage. So if you're really going to compare, are you being fair? We don't know. And on the flip side, had the Phase III of this Johnson and Johnson vaccine trial started back in July before the variants, would that efficacy be better? Would that 72% efficacy in the United States have shot up to 85% or 95%? We don't know.
Would the 85% protection against severe disease, would that have been more like 100% had the Johnson and Johnson trial taken place before the variants came about? We don't know. My point is while some people are laughing at and poo-pooing away the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, we have to be sure we use our critical thinking.
Just think. Can you say with certainty that if the Johnson and Johnson vaccine trial had been done at the same time as the other messenger RNA trials when the variants were not prevalent, can you say that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine would have been inferior? No, you really can't. The other thing is that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine only studied patients receiving one dose of the vaccination.
Now there are now some trials in place where people are getting a booster, they're getting a second dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccination. And so just think. If we had a 66% effectiveness globally and a 72% effectiveness in the United States with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, we don't know yet but there's a great promise that we really could get up to perhaps that 95% efficacy that we have with the currently approved vaccines. We don't know. My point is that rumor versus reality, should you be laughing at the Johnson and Johnson vaccine? Absolutely not. It still offers protection. It's still a good vaccine. It still has an excellent safety profile, meaning that there are not a lot of side effects and people were not dying from getting the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
4. Would I Take The Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine?
What would I personally do if I were offered the Johnson and Johnson vaccine? Now full disclosure, I have already had the Pfizer vaccinations. I've gotten both doses, so I'm kind of out of the picture right now. But if I were in a position where the Moderna vaccine was not available, and the Pfizer vaccine, was not available either, I would first call around, make sure I stayed up to date on the CDC websites.
I'd be looking at all the briefings and finding out when the doses were coming in. I would really kind of try and see if I could weigh my options for a short period of time, as in maybe a week or two, that's it. But if it became apparent due to the shortage and due to this grand pandemic, which is taking so many lives.
If the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was offered to me and that was the only choice I had, I would take that vaccination because here's my thinking. I would think, "Okay, if I don't take the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, and I know good and well that messenger RNA vaccines are not available, then I myself do not have any protection from COVID-19 but that would give me a 66% chance of protection globally. And being in the United States, it may even give me 72%."
A 72% chance versus essentially 0% chance without having the vaccine. I would go with the 72% possibility. And then if I say, "You know what? If I get the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, I may still end up getting the disease, but guess what? There an 85% chance that I wouldn't end up in the hospital and I would not die."
And so if the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was the only vaccination available to me, I would get it. Tell me what you think because this topic really is not black and white. It could go a whole lot of ways and so I'm really curious to see what your thoughts are. So please comment below,
Have you had any of the vaccines already? Would you get the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine if it were the only vaccine available to you? I'm very curious to see what you think.