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One & done: The inside story on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

One & done: The inside story on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Get answers to your seven biggest questions about the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

It’s springtime in NOLA and starting to feel like life is coming back, but it’s not time to let your guard (or your face mask) down just yet. It’s time to get vaccinated! We asked Jeffrey Elder, MD, Medical Director for Emergency Management at LCMC Health, to answer your questions about the third COVID-19 vaccine option that’s now available—the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen shot.

Question 1: How effective is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine compared to the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines?

Dr. Elder: You may have heard Johnson & Johnson has a lower effectiveness percentage rate compared to the other vaccines. Despite the numbers, it’s really difficult to compare Moderna and Pfizer clinical trial findings to the Johnson & Johnson clinical trial because the trials were conducted:

  • at different moments in time
  • with different variants of the coronavirus in circulation
  • in different patient populations

The main thing to know is, despite those variables, the Johnson & Johnson immunization performed extremely well in clinical trials—much better even than our flu vaccines that we use every year. By getting as many people vaccinated as soon as possible, we’re going to keep people healthy, out of the hospital and keep them from dying.

Question 2: How is this vaccine different from Moderna and Pfizer?

Dr. Elder: The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single-dose immunization that doesn’t require the specific refrigeration that the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer vaccines do. It’s made using a harmless, modified cold virus called an adenovirus, which trains the body’s immune system to recognize the coronavirus and fight it off. It’s not an mRNA vaccine like Moderna and Pfizer. It’s more like a traditional vaccine.

Question 3: What are the side effects?

Dr. Elder: The same as those for Moderna and Pfizer. Arm soreness is very common, but side effects can also include injection site swelling and redness, chills, fatigue and fever—none of which should last more than 24 hours.

Question 4: What if you’ve had an allergic reaction to a vaccine in the past? Should you get this vaccine?

Dr. Elder: Like Moderna and Pfizer, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine contains no preservatives, which is why we have to keep them cold. So there’s really no increased risk for anaphylaxis, which is when the throat closes up, because these vaccines are relatively simple. So for people who avoid vaccines because of an egg, latex or other preservative allergy, that’s not an issue here.

Question 5: Wasn’t there controversy about this vaccine?

Dr. Elder: The U.S. Conference of Bishops issued a statement that it is morally acceptable to take this vaccine. The fetal cell lines used in the development of the vaccine are over 30 years old, and there’s no actual fetal tissue in the vaccine.

Question 6: What’s the most important thing for our community to know about this vaccine?

Dr. Elder: These vaccines are extremely safe and effective and have been through rigorous clinical trials. I urge people to take any vaccine available to them to reduce the toll of the coronavirus, which has killed over half a million people in the U.S. alone. Because COVID is such an extreme public health threat, we want to save the most lives as we can by vaccinating as many people as possible.

The biggest thing to remember is people who receive any kind of vaccine are more likely to be protected from serious illness, hospitalization and death. By getting your vaccine as soon as you’re eligible and as soon as the vaccine’s available to you, you’re going to be protecting yourself, your loved ones and your community from the virus.

Question 7: There may have been some vaccine hesitancy early on, but do you think that’s changing?

Dr. Elder: Yes, I think so. We just opened up the LCMC Health COVID-19 Vaccination Center at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, and it’s really been a great place to work because everybody’s so excited to be there. I work in the emergency department normally. People aren’t usually excited to be at the ER, so it’s a lot different to see people coming in happy about getting their vaccine.

The more people who get vaccinated, the sooner we can reach herd immunity—which happens when enough people have been vaccinated that it lessens everyone’s risk of getting COVID-19. That is when we will truly start to get back to life.

Be in that number! Visit lcmchealth.org/vaccine to determine your eligibility or call (504) 290-5200 to learn about community vaccinations. #sleevesupnola