Nursing & Healthcare News

The Third Vaccine

What to know about Johnson & Johnson’s entry in the fight against COVID-19

As you’re undoubtedly aware, the FDA granted emergency use authorization (EUA) to a third COVID-19 vaccine in February. With antivaxx propaganda and conspiracy theories running wild, here’s what every nurse should know about the latest shot.

And Then There Were Three

The third COVID-19 vaccine to receive emergency FDA authorization is made by Janssen Biotech Inc., a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary. The vaccine, which received its EUA on February 27, 2021, joins those manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. With three different vaccines and a climate of widespread misinformation, you may find yourself fielding questions from confused patients, family members or even colleagues. Here are the key facts about the Johnson & Johnson offering:

• It’s a different type of vaccine than the other two.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are of the mRNA type, but the Johnson & Johnson is a “vector vaccine,” which uses a genetically modified live virus to provoke an immune response.

• It contains a live virus — but NOT the COVID-19 virus.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses an adenovirus — similar to the virus that causes the common cold — that’s been genetically modified so that it simulates the proteins that make up the novel coronavirus’s distinctive spikes, preparing your immune system to recognize and fight back against the real thing. However, the vaccine doesn’t contain the COVID-19 virus, so you can’t contract COVID-19 from the shot.

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• The virus the vaccine contains can’t replicate or spread.

The modified genes of the adenovirus make it “replication-defective,” so while it may cause temporary inflammation and soreness around the injection site, it can’t make you sick and it’s not contagious.

• It only requires a single dose.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, spaced either three or four weeks apart.

• It protects more quickly than do the other two.

Clinical trials indicate the Johnson & Johnson vaccine provides significant protection within 14 to 28 days after injection. The others don’t provide full protection until a week or two after the second dose. • It doesn’t protect as much as do the other two. In clinical trials, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was about 66 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 infection, compared to 94–95 percent for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

• Its long-term effectiveness is still unknown.

(We don’t yet know how long the other two vaccines protect either, or if patients will need periodic booster shots.)

• We don’t yet know if it reduce transmission risk.

As with the other EUA vaccines, you’ll still need to mask and practice physical distancing after your injection.

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• It’s not authorized for children.

As with the Pfizer vaccine, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s EUA only covers adult patients. (The Moderna vaccine can be administered to patients as young as 16.)

• It’s not available for sale online.

The FDA recently busted a number of retailers for allegedly offering fraudulent COVID-19 vaccines; none of the three EUA vaccines are authorized for sale over the Internet.

For more detailed information about all three COVID-19 vaccines, including information about clinical trial results and potential side effects, check out the FDA’s healthcare provider fact sheets, which are available at the following links: Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine; Moderna vaccine; Pfize-BioNTech vaccine.

THE CROWN

The coronavirus is named for the Latin corona, meaning “crown,” and uses its distinctive crown-like spikes to penetrate other cells. All of the current EUA vaccines work by replicating the proteins that make up those spikes — without the actual SARS-CoV-2 virus. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines create short-lived samples of the spike proteins without any virus present, while Johnson & Johnson’s new vector vaccine uses a harmless adenovirus that’s been genetically engineered to replicate the COVID-19 spike proteins. Either way, the vaccinated patient’s immune system learns to respond to those proteins without being exposed to the coronavirus.


Aaron Severson is a freelance writer, editor, and writing consultant as well as the associate editor of Working Nurse.


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