Johnson & Johnson’s the shot nears approval, experts are examining the full scope of vaccine protection, and Covax’s international shipments begin. Here’s what you need to know:
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Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine undergoing approval in the United States
Today, a panel of experts will review the efficacy and safety of Johnson & Johnson Single Dose Covid-19 Vaccine, the last step before the FDA decides whether or not to approve the shot. This decision is expected on Saturday. Earlier this week, an FDA review found the vaccine to be 66% effective in protecting people against moderate to severe cases of Covid-19, and even more effective in protecting against serious illness. J&J said if approved it would deliver around 20 million doses to the United States by the end of March.
In addition, two other vaccines, Novavax and AstraZeneca, plan to apply for emergency use authorization in the United States in April. And Pfizer and Moderna both told U.S. lawmakers this week that they expected a major increase in vaccine deliveries over the next five weeks, claiming to have overcome manufacturing challenges. From Thursday, 6.5 percent of the United States had been fully vaccinated and nearly 14 percent had received the first dose. All the vaccine news from last week indicates that these numbers will continue to rise.
Experts examine whether vaccines reduce transmission and protect against variants
This week, two new studies – which have yet to be peer reviewed – made headlines announcing that vaccinations reduce viral spread. Experts not affiliated with the studies say they have flaws and can’t realistically tell us how many vaccines reduce transmission, but the good news is they show vaccines work well. For now, public health officials say: stay masked and vigilant, even when vaccinated.
Meanwhile, Moderna and Pfizer are working to modify their vaccines to better protect them against the variants. Moderna announced on Wednesday that a new version of its vaccine designed to target the variant first found in South Africa is ready for human testing. And Pfizer said it was considering adding a third booster dose to specifically target the same mutation.
International vaccine distribution is increasing
This week, the WHO-led Covax initiative, which aims to distribute vaccines equitably around the world, sent its first shipments to Ghana and the Ivory Coast, a milestone for the global distribution of vaccines. Covax received the the vast majority of its funds from G-7 countries and the EU. Other countries, including China, India and Russia, have also launched their own so-called vaccine diplomacy efforts, even as they face their own national challenges.
Within the EU, efforts are also underway to accelerate vaccine deployment. Leaders from the region gathered this week and stressed the importance of speeding up vaccine production and delivery. They also discussed the idea of “vaccination certificates”, which could make tourism and travel during the summer holidays possible.
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