Fact vs. Fiction: Is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as effective as the others on the market?

PITTSBURGH — There are now three approved COVID-19 vaccines in the United States, with Johnson & Johnson receiving emergency use authorization this week.

Due to some of the differences between that vaccine and those from Pfizer and Moderna, some people are questioning whether the Johnson & Johnson’s shot is as effective.

11 Investigates reporter Angie Moreschi took a closer look to find out what’s fact and what’s fiction.

Since the J&J vaccine is less effective, is it better just to wait for one of the others?

Clinical trials show the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is 66% effective worldwide and 72% effective in the United States at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19. Compare that to nearly 85% effectiveness for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Some people are asking, “because the J&J vaccine is less effective, should I wait for one of the others?” The answer is no, according to infectious disease expert Dr. Matthew Moffa of Allegheny Health Network.

“My advice would be to take whichever vaccine is offered to you. All three vaccines were 100% effective at preventing people from being hospitalized in preventing people from dying in the clinical trials. And that’s really what matters most changing this from a deadly illness to a common cold or sniffles,” Moffa told Moreschi.

Moffa also said that effectiveness percentages don’t tell the whole story. It’s not an “apples to apples” comparison.

The Johnson & Johnson trials were done later and in different geographic locations. So, it was up against new, more resistant COVID-19 strains that had developed, like the South African variant.

Can you get immunity faster?

Because the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is only one shot, some people believe it would be easier to get and less hassle. Does that also mean you get immunity faster?

The answer is yes.

“The other vaccines require a second dose after 21 or 28 days. This only requires one shot in full advocacy is felt to me after about 28 days,” said Moffa.

It takes slightly longer, about a week or two, for the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to kick-in fully because you do have to get a second dose.

Will the Johnson & Johnson vaccine be easier to get?

Another difference with the J&J vaccine is that is does not need to be kept at sub-zero temperatures. That will make it easier to get in more places.

“It’ll be better at getting it out there getting it into people’s arms and much easier in places that don’t have ultra-cold storage like more rural communities,” Moffa said.

However, it’s important to remember that it will take a while for production to ramp up, so it won’t be easier just yet.

President Biden said Thursday that with the three vaccines now on the market, the federal government expects to have enough COVID-19 vaccine doses by the end of May for every adult in the United States who’s interested in receiving one.