University of Michigan professor explains why she voted to endorse Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine

Dr. A. Overta Fuller was on FDA advisory panel that voted to recommend emergency

Dr. A. Oveta Fuller, an immunology expert from the University of Michigan, was on the panel that voted to recommend the vaccine for emergency use authorization.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The FDA advisory panel voted on Friday to recommend the emergency use authorization of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

On the panel was Dr. A. Oveta Fuller, an immunology expert from the University of Michigan.

Fuller has been on the panel for all three of the vaccines. Previously, she voted “No” on the Pfizer vaccine, but voted in favor of the Moderna.

I spoke to her moments after the unanimous vote supporting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

READ: Here’s what makes J&J vaccine different than the others

READ: US advisers endorse single-shot COVID-19 vaccine from J&J

“We’re still in the middle of a pandemic and we’re going in the right direction... It’s also a great moment because we have another vaccine in our toolkit,” she said.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is different than Pfizer and Moderna, which are both mRNA vaccines. Johnson & Johnson uses a non-human virus with a deactivated gene so it cannot replicate but can communicate to our cells to watch for the virus.

Additionally, the vaccine has shown more efficacy with the COVID-19 variant.

“This is something that is more useful or more palatable. It’s one dose, it’s easier storage, and it’s over 50% effective. They did a great job of looking at multiple sites, including those difficult places -- South Africa, Brazil,” Fuller said. “I’m really encouraged because this is a vaccine that has more utility.”

“I can’t over emphasize that if you’re vaccinated, you still may be shedding the virus, so it’s critical to keep up with those... It’s more critical now because we’re on this momentum. We don’t want to change it,” she added. “It may until the summer or the end of this year, but that’s better than three or five years. And we can do this.”

READ: Record COVID-19 vaccine shipment expected in Michigan next week

About the Author:

Paula Tutman is an Emmy award-winning journalist who came to Local 4 in 1992. She's a Peace Corps alum who spent her early childhood living in Sierra Leone, West Africa and Tanzania and East Africa.