Top U.S. infectious disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci on Friday (January 29) said he was optimistic about Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine as an additional weapon against coronavirus, which the company reported was 66% effective in preventing COVID-19 in a large global trial against multiple variants.
Fauci made the comments in a virtual forum with the New York Press Club.
In the trial of nearly 44,000 volunteers, the level of protection against moderate and severe COVID-19 varied from 72% in the United States, to 66% in Latin America and just 57% in South Africa, from where a worrying variant has spread.
“Although the number of efficacy number, namely 72%, wasn’t as impressive as 94-point-95, it is clearly value added both in the United States and importantly for developing nations,” said Fauci.
The data showed that the vaccine’s effect on the South Africa variant was diminished compared to the unaltered virus, but infectious disease and public health experts said it can still help contain the virus spread and prevent deaths.
Rival shots from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna were both around 95% effective in preventing symptomatic illness in pivotal trials when given in two doses.
Those trials were conducted mainly in the United States and before the emergence of new variants. These mean that the world is racing against time and with limited supplies to vaccinate as many people as possible, and quickly, to prevent virus surges.
J&J shares were down 4% at $162.7 at 1700 GMT, with some Wall Street analysts saying its vaccine’s effectiveness was below those of rivals. Moderna’s stock gained 8% to $172.80.
J&J plans to seek emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration next week and will soon follow up with the European Union and the rest of the world. It has said it plans to deliver 1 billion doses of the vaccine, which it will make in the United States, Europe, South Africa and India, in 2021.
(Production: Soren Larson, Catherine Koppel)