DETROIT – There were lots of major developments Friday in the battle against coronavirus, including the first confirmed cases of the South Africa variant in the United States
The White House COVID-19 Response Team spoke about the highly-anticipated results of Johnson & Johnson’s Phase Three vaccine trials.
“I want to point out this has important potential and real implications both domestically and globally,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single shot, rather than the two doses needed by the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Another advantage is that the vaccine can be stored in a regular refrigerator and can remain stable for up to three months at 36-46 degrees Fahrenheit, making it more accessible to people across the world.
“It is inexpensive,” Fauci added. “The company is capable of making doses into numbers of billions.”
What is the best way to prevent the new COVID variants from taking hold?
“To vaccinate as many people as we can, as quickly as we possibly can,” Fauci said. “Because mutations occur because the virus has a playing field to mutate. If you stop that and stop the replication, viruses can’t mutate if they can’t replicate.”
To help identify how widespread the variants are, the U.S. is taking steps to increase the number of samples that are sequenced, but that may be difficult to achieve.
“By the time someone has symptoms, gets a test, has a positive result and we get the sequence, our opportunity for doing real case control and contact tracing is largely gone. I think and I believe that we should be treating every case as if it’s a variant during this pandemic right now,” said CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “CDC continues to recommend that K-12 schools be the last setting to close after all other mitigation measures have been employed and the first to open when they could do so safely. Accumulating data suggests school settings do not result in rapid spread of COVID-19 when mitigation measures are followed.”
The CDC updated its coronavirus guidelines for schools and said it is possible for students to return to school safely certain precautions in place. The precautions include mandatory mask wearing, limited indoor dining, social distancing; and indoor and contact sports not being permitted.
According to Johnson & Johnson, its vaccine is 72% effective at preventing moderate and severe illness in the United States. No major side effects were reported, including allergic reactions.
It’s also the first vaccine to show effectiveness against the South Africa variant.
The company said it expects 100 million doses to be available to the public by July.
Once authorized by the FDA, there will be three vaccines available in the United States. Health officials are urging residents to not wait for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and any vaccine a resident can get is the best vaccine.
“Any vaccine is better than no vaccine as long as it meets the standards required under the EUA,” said Dr. John Brooks. “In the event that you have the choice to be vaccinated, I’d encourage you to take the max of vaccine that you’re given as long as it meets the requirement under the FDA is emergencies authorization.”