Concerns over J&J vaccine distribution to Black communities as Biden set to announce 100m more doses

Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 72 per cent effective against Covid-19

Danielle Zoellner
New York
Wednesday 10 March 2021 18:22

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Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine was lauded as a "game changer" by health experts in the fight to vaccinate a majority of the American public given its efficacy against severe disease from Covid-19 and being only a one-dose shot.

But experts have raised concerns about the vaccine being specifically distributed to poor or minority communities, with concerns the protection will be inferior to what other areas are receiving from the other two available vaccines.

Johnson & Johnson's one-shot vaccine offers about 72 per cent efficacy Covid-19 compared to the nearly 95 per cent efficacy from Pfizer and Moderna, according to clinical trials.

"Why go for 70 when you can get 95?" attorney Logan Patmon, a Detroit resident who is Black, told CNBC.

Public officials have celebrated Johnson & Johnson receiving emergency use authorisation for its Covid-19 vaccine from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) because it offers more simplistic cold-storage requirements compared to Pfizer and Moderna.

Read more: Follow live updates from the Biden administration

It can be stored in a refrigerator for up to three months at 36 degrees F to 46 degrees F, Johnson & Johnson said in its press release. Pfizer, in comparison, requires a special deep freezer for its vaccine and dry ice when transporting. Experts have said the cold-storage of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would make it easier to send doses to harder-to-reach communities compared to what Pfizer currently requires, given how much easier it is to transfer and store.

But Mr Patmon thought that simplicity should not dictate some communities throughout the country receiving a different vaccine compared to others.

"Just because it is the easiest thing to do, it doesn't mean it's the right thing to do," Mr Patmon told CNBC. "You don't want to it to be a situation where segregated, wealthier areas get the better vaccine and the poor, more minority areas are told, 'Just be happy.'"

When previously speaking about the vaccine, Dr Fauci said it was important for people to not compare the three vaccines “head to head”, as they all underwent different clinical trials. He’s also said that Johnson & Johnson’s efficacy against severe disease was important to pay attention to when analysing the data.

“The overall efficacy for severe disease was 85 per cent,” Dr Fauci said during a White House Covid press briefing. “There were essentially no hospitalisations or deaths in the vaccine group, whereas with the placebo group there were. We have a value-added vaccine candidate.”

But public health officials would have to likely address some of the concerns related to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as eligibility continued to open up in states.

The concern of the vaccine’s impact on minority communities comes as President Joe Biden was set to announce the federal government plans to purchase an additional 100 million vaccine doses from Johnson & Johnson on Wednesday.

Mr Biden will announce the plans during a White House meeting with the CEOs of Johnson & Johnson and Merck.

Currently, Johnson & Johnson has a deal with the federal government to manufacture 100 million doses of its vaccine by the end of June. Already 3.9 million doses were shipped out to states last week following the company receiving emergency use authorisation.

The federal government was now working to ramp up production of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine in an effort to vaccinate the public more swiftly as new Covid-19 variants continue to spread. Last week, Mr Biden announced that Merck, another pharmaceutical giant, would assist Johnson & Johnson in manufacturing by utilising two of its US-based facilities for production.

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