Indeed, in the United States, children under the age of 18 make up about a quarter of the population but are not yet allowed to receive the vaccines. In addition, about 30% of American adults say will not receive a covid-19 vaccine at all. Children and skeptics together make up half of the population.
By August, the three companies say they will provide the United States with enough vaccine for 400 million people, more than the nation’s population. This does not take into account a fourth vaccine, manufactured by Novavax, which could also obtain a US authorization.
“By the summer we will be in good shape. The question is, how are we going to navigate this space by June, ”says Hotez.
A growing arsenal
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine joins a growing global list of approved vaccines that includes both messenger RNA vaccines, injections from AstraZeneca and Chinese manufacturers, and the Russian “Sputnik” vaccine, all used outside the United States.
People who receive any of the vaccines will on average see their odds of dying from covid-19 drop to almost zero. That’s down from an overall death rate of about 1.7% of diagnosed cases in the United States – and several times higher risk among the elderly.
The J&J vaccine has fewer side effects than mRNA vaccines and has also been shown to be effective against a highly transmissible South African variant virus that has accumulated many mutations.
The South African variant has alarmed researchers because it clearly decreases the effectiveness of some vaccines. A study conducted in South Africa by AstraZeneca found that its vaccine offered no protection against the variant at all, prompting officials to abandon a plan to distribute the vaccine there.
According to the Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize, South Africa is turning instead to the J&J vaccine, with a vaccination plan for 80,000 health workers in the next two weeks.
This week, Moderna also said it will develop a plan to suit the South African variant, and Pfizer has indicated that it is also preparing to counter the new strains as they arise. Another strategy being considered to fend off variants is to give people additional booster doses of current vaccines.
Some experts in the United States continue to urge the government to adopt faster vaccination schedules, such as delaying second doses of messenger RNA injections or using half doses, arguing that the more people have “good enough” protection, the sooner the pandemic will end.
So far, however, it is unclear which agency or official would be willing, or even legally authorized, to make this call.
“We’re all wondering who might make this decision,” Hotez says. “And it all depends on how urgent you feel. The big picture is if you know the numbers are going down and you think they’re going to stay that way due to seasonality, then you’ve got a bit of a break. But if you are worried about the variants, you have a problem and you want to get vaccinated earlier than expected. “
On NBC, Fauci said people shouldn’t wait for the best vaccine but take what is offered. “Even the one that is maybe a little less effective is still effective against serious illnesses, as we have seen with the J&J vaccine,” he said. “Get vaccinated when the vaccine is available.”