Good afternoon, readers.
I’d like to use today’s column to pose a question I’ve asked many of my own friends and colleagues: Would you be willing to get a COVID vaccine that’s less effective but perhaps more convenient to receive?
One week ago, Johnson & Johnson unveiled results from a global trial finding that its COVID vaccine is about 66% effective. That’s significantly lower efficacy than the approximately 95% effectiveness of Pfizer/BioNTech’s and Moderna’s mRNA-based vaccines.
But there are some critical differences and societal factors which will shape which vaccines someone gets. Location is everything in health care, especially given the complexities and unique needs of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
For instance, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is a more conventional one and it only requires on shot, whereas the mRNA vaccines require two. The mRNA vaccines also have ultra-cooling requirements (particularly Pfizer’s) which may not be easy to achieve in developing nations without the specialized storage capacity. So, in that sense, people who live in poorer nations may not have much of a say in which vaccine they get.
But there’s another consideration: Time and complexity of vaccine administration versus prioritizing the more effective vaccine. If Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine wins Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorization, as many public health experts expect it will, you might be able to get it faster and only deal with having to get a single dose. And 66% is nothing to roll your eyes at when it comes to the vaccine world, as former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb noted on Twitter.
Ultimately a vaccination campaign of this scale will require the deployment of multiple vaccines, and local needs and capabilities (medical, political, or otherwise) will dictate much of which ones go where. But if you had the chance to get a less effective vaccine if it meant you could get it soon, would you do so? I’d love to hear readers’ thoughts.
Read on for the day’s news, and see you next week.