ATLANTA — By the end of the week, there could be a third vaccine approved to use in the fight against COVID-19.
Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is expected to receive emergency approval, and if it does, health officials say it will be a game changer in combating the virus.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine only needs one dose and can be kept in a normal freezer. The Pfizer vaccine needs to be kept in extreme cold until it is ready to be administered and requires two shots like the Moderna vaccine.
This Friday, an FDA committee will meet to decide on whether or not to approve emergency authorization for the vaccine.
“The committee reviews all the data and materials that the company has generated on their Phase 3 trials and their safety of the vaccine,” said Dr. Ted Ross, director of vaccines and immunology for the University of Georgia.
Ross said with only needing one dose, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will mean more people will be able to be vaccinated much quicker.
“So instead of having to reserve a second dose for a person we now can vaccinate them once and then move on to the next person,” Ross said.
Johnson & Johnson said once it gets emergency use authorization it will begin shipping the vaccine out.
The company says it plans to deliver enough doses to vaccinate 20 million people next month.
Ross said other vaccines are still being studied.
“In the next several months, there are vaccines coming out for a company called Novavax. That will have a protein-based vaccine, that’s your traditional type vaccine we see with different pathogens,” Ross said.
Ross said it’s really important people get the vaccine to reach a high-level of immunity, especially among adults.
No one knows exactly how long after Friday’s meeting it’ll take for the likely authorization, but it’s expected to happen fairly quickly.
More doses arriving in Georgia
Having another vaccine to give people will be welcome news to those people who can’t get a shot right now.
DeKalb County continues to see a backlog of thousands needing their second shot of the Moderna vaccine.
Fierce winter weather in the South and Midwest last week stalled shipments.
“The manufacturers were not going to put such a precious commodity into the supply chain until they knew they could get the vaccine through,” said Eric Nicken with the DeKalb County Board of Health.
It finally came through on Tuesday. Some 3,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine were delivered to DeKalb’s board of health.
“We anticipate that this will start putting us back on track so we can resume operations for the second doses tomorrow,” Nicken said.
Even if you go past the recommended month window between your first and second shot, health experts say there’s some buffer time.
“I’ll remind people that it’s still six weeks,” said Dr. Sandra Ford, director of the DeKalb County Board of Health.
Tom Huynh helped his parents, who don’t speak or read English, schedule their appointments.
“I just seen the site open (last) night, then I quickly registered them, immediately, and I have an appointment today. Yeah, really quick,” Huynh said.
Margie Stogstill said she was glad to get her first shot.
“It’s very well organized here, and it’ great they are opening satellite stations,” Stogstill said.
The DeKalb County Health Department said it is now contacting more than 1,000 people who are overdue for their second shot to come back this week.
Channel 2′s Carol Sbarge and Tom Regan contributed to this article.
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