Coronavirus Latest News USA: Dr. Fauci Says All 3 COVID Vaccines Highly Effective, Urges Americans to Take Shot Most Available

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In today’s Coronavirus Latest News USA, White House Chief Medical Advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci urges Americans to get any of the three COVID-19 vaccines available. 

On Sunday, White House Chief Medical Advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said he would take the newly approved Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine and urged Americans to take whichever shot is available when they are eligible.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine on Saturday, giving the country a third tool to fight the pandemic following vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. The company expects to deliver 20 million doses by the end of March.

Speaking to NBC’s Meet the Press, Fauci said, “All three of them are really quite good, and people should take the one that’s most available to them. If you go to a place and you have J&J, and that’s the one that’s available now, I would take it. I personally would do the same thing. I think people need to get vaccinated as quickly and as expeditiously as possible.”

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine is different from the others because it is a one-dose vaccine and does not require patients to return for a second dose. Moreover, it can be stored at refrigerator temperature for months. Overall, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has demonstrated 66% effectiveness – 72% in the United States and 57% in South Africa, which has seen a rapid spread of the B.1.351 coronavirus variant.

Though the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines showed higher efficacy rates in trials using two doses versus Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine, Fauci insisted that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is not a ‘weaker’ vaccine and said that trial data should not be compared for the three vaccines because they were tested at different times. “You now have three highly efficacious vaccines, for sure,” Fauci said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

However, Fauci said studies are still underway to determine their effectiveness and safety for children under 18, who are less likely to get sick from the virus. According to Fauci, elementary-school students could get doses toward the end of the year or the beginning of next year, while high-school students could get it in the fall. 

White the U.S. is seeing a decline in new COVID-19 cases and an improvement in the vaccination rate, Fauci warned that states should not prematurely loosen pandemic restrictions – a move which could cause another surge in infections. “We don’t want to continue to prevent people from doing what they want to do. But let’s get down to a good level,” Fauci told CBS’ Face the Nation, “Let’s get many, many more people vaccinated. And then you could pull back on those types of public health measures.”

 “But right now, as we’re going down and plateauing is not the time to declare victory because we’re not victorious yet,” Fauci said.

Press Briefing by White House COVID-19 Response Team and Public Health Officials

(via teleconference, March 1)

MR. ZIENTS: Good morning.  Thank you for joining us.  We got very good news over the weekend: The Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for a third safe and effective vaccine, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which will help us defeat the pandemic.

While we have much work ahead of us on so many fronts, this is certainly a very encouraging development.

Today, we’ll get a state-of-the-pandemic update from Dr. Walensky, Dr. Fauci, and Dr. Nunez-Smith will discuss the recently authorized J&J vaccine.  And I’ll close with an update on our planning, logistics, and distribution of the J&J vaccine.  And then we’ll open it up to questions.

DR. FAUCI:  Thank you very much, Dr. Walensky.  I’m going to just talk a little bit more now about the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. 

If I could have that first slide.  Let’s move on to the second slide.  We get questions — just move on to the second slide. 

We get questions regarding the various percentage numbers that people see.  And I know most of you are aware of them, but let me just clarify a few things.  The 66 percent vaccine efficacy that we have is really against all of the countries involved.  You must recall that this vaccine trial was done on three continents — the United States, South America, and South Africa — with varying degrees of infection dynamics, as well as varying strains, variants, or lineages.  That is the 66 percent.  The 72 percent is the vaccine efficacy against moderate to severe critical infection in the United States. 

I want to point out again a question we often get asked.  In order to try — we always say: What vaccine is better than the other vaccine?  In order to be able to determine that, you would have to compare them head to head.  This was not done.  We have three highly efficacious vaccines that also, as Dr. Walensky says, has a very good safety profile. 

A very important number, but I want to reemphasize, is that there’s 85 percent efficacy against severe COVID-19 globally, including the United States.  This is very important because if you look at other countries, such as South Africa — if you go to the next slide — where you have the B1351, you can see that the efficacy against severe critical disease was 82 percent there.  That’s really very important, because even though the vaccine itself — the spike protein that was used and expressed in that vaccine was the spike protein against wild-type virus, namely the virus that is the D614G, not against the B1351.  So even though the vaccine itself was not specifically directed against those variants, it did extremely well when it came to preventing severe critical disease.  And as we’ve heard many times now, there were no hospitalizations or deaths in any of those studies.

I want to just spend a minute now telling you the difference between the mRNA and the Ad26, because we often get asked that question.  As we’ve said on previous briefings, the mRNA that’s injected into the muscle codes for the spike protein in the proper configuration.  The body sees that and makes an immune response against that, giving you the protection that has been shown with both of the mRNA vaccines.

In contrast, the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine approach is to take a common-cold, harmless, non-replication, competent virus called Adeno26, in which the DNA of the SARS spike insert was given into the genome.  That virus is then injected into an individual.  The DNA then transcribes the RNA; the RNA then gives you the spike protein. 

The ultimate end game is that both of the viruses — excuse me, both of the vaccines ultimately result in a spike protein in the right conformation that gives the body the opportunity to feel that this is the actual virus that it’s seeing when it’s not; it’s the protein.

And so just to put everything into perspective — we’ve shown this slide before — we now have, again, the third vaccine that is highly efficacious, as shown here, which has been granted an EUA, as has been described by Dr. Walensky.

Let me go to the last slide and just make a comment that I think people do not seem to appreciate, and it has to do with what goes into making these vaccines successful.

I have as the title of the slide, “The Role of the NIH and the U.S. Government in the Development and Testing of J&J.”

I think what people don’t appreciate is that there have been decades of investment in basic preclinical and clinical research to actually develop the adenovirus 26 vector.  A lot of work done by Dr. Dan Barouch and his colleagues up at Harvard. 

The development of the stabilized prefusion spike protein was done by scientists at the NIAID Vaccine Research Center.  The utilization by J&J of the extensive domestic and international clinical trials network, that was established for — actually, for HIV and influenza.

Also, the NIAID-funded CORE lab at the HVTN, at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, performed all the immunological testing.  The Data and Safety Monitoring Board was established by NIAID, and there was extensive support from BARDA at ASPR of HHS to conduct the trial and to pre-purchase hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of vaccines by BARDA.

So, it’s a complicated process.  So even though it looks like it was quick and it was done in a very relatively short period of time, there was a lot of effort, including fundamental, basic preclinical and clinical research that went into that.

I’ll stop there and hand it over to Dr. Nunez-Smith.

DR. NUNEZ-SMITH: Well, thanks so much, Dr. Fauci.  This is all very, very good news.  You know, all three vaccines are safe and highly effective at preventing what we care about most, and that’s very serious illness and death.

So, all of the authorized vaccines will be distributed across states and jurisdictions and across all of our federal vaccination channels. 

That doesn’t mean that every vaccination site will have every vaccine, but it means that all vaccines will reach all communities — so all three authorized vaccines available in the suburbs, all three available in the cities, all three available on the coast and in the Heartland.

So I just want to briefly talk about some of the clinical benefits of the J&J vaccine from a healthcare provider’s perspective.  Having these different types of vaccines available for use — you know, ones that have different storage requirements, different handling requirements, different dosing recommendations — that will bring more options and more flexibility to healthcare providers.

You know, it could absolutely allow for expanded availability of vaccine, you know, in some temporary clinics, some pop-up mobile sites, and those locations that do not have cold storage capacity.  The overall increased vaccine supply creates greater opportunity for people to get vaccinated. 

We also recognize some individuals may have a preference for a single dose vaccine — so those who do not want to return for a second dose or who would have difficulty returning for a second dose.  We understand that.

Still, as a physician, I strongly urge everyone in America to get the first vaccine that is available to you when it is your turn. If people want to opt for one vaccine over another, you know, they may have to wait. Time is of the essence; getting vaccinated saves lives.

No doubt, communities across the country have been devastated by this pandemic.  The vaccines and vaccinations are a critical tool in bringing this unprecedented pandemic to an end.  And now we have three.

And so, for that, in addition to the scientist, I want to thank all of the clinical trial participants for their contributions to scientific discovery.

You know, for this vaccination campaign to be successful, vaccines will have to reach everyone.  And so kudos to those states and jurisdictions who are already working closely with trusted leaders in the hardest-hit communities to ensure fair and equitable access to vaccinations.  This is best practice.

So, again, all three vaccines have been proven safe, highly effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 after full immunity.

And if I could leave people with one message, it is this: Get vaccinated with the first vaccine available to you.  Protect yourself, your family, and your community from COVID-19.

MR. ZIENTS: Well, thank you, Dr. Nunez-Smith.  I’ll provide an update on our planning, logistics, and distribution of the recently authorized Johnson & Johnson vaccine before we open it up for questions.

For the last several weeks, we’ve been working with governors, state and local health officials, and pharmacies and community health centers to ensure we were ready to roll out the J&J vaccine immediately after FDA approval and CDC recommendations.

Starting yesterday, we began executing on our plans by distributing 3.9 million doses of Johnson & Johnson to states, tribes, and territories, and also to pharmacies and community health centers.

… 

We have three very effective vaccines, and all communities should have equitable and even access to each vaccine.

… 

There is a path out of this pandemic, but how quickly we exit this crisis depends on all of us.  And that’s why I encourage everyone to take the advice of Doctors Walensky, Fauci, and Nunez-Smith.

Follow the public health guidance.  Get vaccinated when it’s your turn.  And continue to wear masks and social distance to protect yourself and your fellow Americans.  We will continue doing everything we can, as a federal government, to defeat this virus, but it’ll take all of us, stepping up to do our part.

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