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The Important Things to Know About Johnson & Johnson's COVID Vaccine

By Keith Speights - Feb 14, 2021 at 6:14AM

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J&J's new vaccine could be important in ending the pandemic.

Two COVID-19 vaccines are already on the market in the U.S. Johnson & Johnson (JNJ 1.75%) could join the club in the near future with its vaccine. The healthcare giant filed for U.S. emergency use authorization earlier this month. In this Motley Fool Live video recorded on Feb. 1, 2021, "The Wrap" host Jason Hall and Motley Fool contributor Keith Speights discuss the important things to know about J&J's COVID vaccine.

Jason Hall: Keith, let's go ahead and start talking about what's the latest with the coronavirus vaccines. We got a number of questions here to ask and let's start with this one first, because I can tell you this is from me. This is the one that I'm most interested in.

With Johnson & Johnson, the mega pharmaceutical company has just recently announced the late-stage results for the study on its COVID vaccine last week. We saw the efficacy was a lot lower. You go from in the mid 90s percent from Pfizer, Moderna to in the mid 60s, for J&J. Can you tell us what it all means? Can J&J still win an emergency use authorization?

Keith Speights: Yeah. Well, first of all, absolutely. I do fully expect Johnson & Johnson will win emergency use authorization for their vaccine. The efficacy rate was lower than Pfizer's or Moderna's, for sure. You're right, Pfizer and Moderna had mid-90s efficacy. Johnson & Johnson came out with an overall efficacy of 66 percent. That doesn't look great in comparison.

But there are few things to keep in mind with J&J's vaccine. No. 1, it's a single-dose vaccine. They're getting that efficacy after one shot, whereas Pfizer and Moderna were getting their higher efficacy after two shots. By the way, J&J is also evaluating a two-shot regimen as well. The results for that will be available later this year.

The main thing to remember is that single-dose. That's really important because you get the protection a lot more quickly and that's great. That helps us get to herd immunity, and I think that's going to be a big factor in them winning EUA very soon. The other thing to note with their vaccine is that, in terms of how much it prevented serious cases of COVID, it was I think 85 percent effective.

Jason Hall: Right. That's enormous.

Keith Speights: Yes, that's excellent. I think we might have gotten a little spoiled. 

Jason Hall: I can remember, Keith, that when we first started talking about this, the expectation from the FDA was anything that was 50 percent efficacy or above would be considered great. We're going to approve it. We have to do something.

Keith Speights: Exactly. I think when Pfizer and Moderna came out with their 94 percent, 95 percent efficacy, everybody was thinking, "That's what we need to expect". Look, our flu vaccines are only around 60 percent effective. For a vaccine to be more than 90 percent is outstanding, it's staggering.

Jason Hall: Particularly when you start thinking about the people that are most at risk of this as being a deadly illness, I think that's really important. Also, I noticed that if I remember correctly, they provided a little more data that in the US, the efficacy rates were higher.

Keith Speights: They were. That's the other thing to note with J&J's results. These new variants that we were talking about earlier were in the mix for their clinical study to a much more significant degree. We don't even know how much the new variance, if at all, were part of the Pfizer, Moderna studies. Their results were brought down in particular by their studies conducted in South Africa, where the efficacy was only 57 percent.

Jason Hall: Right.

Keith Speights: But in the U.S. the efficacy was 72 percent, which is better than their overall efficacy. This is a good vaccine. I think it's going to be on the market soon. I think it's going to help make a difference. I think it's going to help us get to that herd immunity. Whether that's November or next year, whatever the case may be, I think it's going to be an important vaccine.

Jason Hall: Particularly when you consider that this is Johnson & Johnson, in terms of their capacity and their scale to deliver a product to market, that has to just be something that people need to be paying attention to.

Keith Speights: Right. One thing interesting that most people might not realize about Johnson & Johnson, though, is that they only have one approved vaccine right now.

Jason Hall: Wow.

Keith Speights: They haven't been big in the vaccine market.

Jason Hall: It's not their thing.

Keith Speights: It's not their thing. They are getting into it, but it hasn't been their thing historically, but they are so big. They're the biggest healthcare company on the planet, and they obviously have the financial resources and the technical expertise to target whatever area they want to. I'm glad they're getting into vaccines. I think it's a good thing.

Jason Hall: Their logistics just there's simple scale. I think is really, really valuable in this.

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Stocks Mentioned

Johnson & Johnson Stock Quote
Johnson & Johnson
$176.98 (1.75%) $3.04
Pfizer Inc. Stock Quote
Pfizer Inc.
$52.47 (3.59%) $1.82
Moderna, Inc. Stock Quote
Moderna, Inc.
$136.25 (-4.97%) $-7.13

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