On brink of new vaccine, Justice expects thousands more doses next week

With initial federal approval today of Johnson & Johnson’s version of covid-19 vaccine, Gov. Jim Justice said he anticipates a weekly allotment of 15,000 additional doses.

That’s on top of what West Virginia already receives from Pfizer and Moderna. Total weekly doses for West Virginia should approach 60,000, Justice said.

“That’s great, great news and we’re ready for it,” he said. “So send ’em on.”

Justice anticipated the increase will start next week. So far, West Virginia has administered 285,654 doses of vaccine.

The state says 183,537 residents have been fully vaccinated. That’s 10.3 percent of West Virginia’s population.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is anticipated to be easier to handle because it does not have to be stored at ultracold temperatures like the other versions. It also requires only one shot, rather than the two shots required by the others.

James Hoyer

“That will be important to us moving forward,” said James Hoyer, chief of West Virginia’s interagency task force. “We’ll continue to focus on the most vulnerable.”

Hoyer said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be easier to handle in some ways.

“It will allow us more flexibility, for example, older individuals who may not be as mobile who will be easier to get a single shot to, or certain populations like that,” he said.

A panel of experts today recommended the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorize the Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s national distribution. The full agency could give the vaccine its go-ahead this weekend.

The anticipated third vaccine has come as the United States went past 500,000 deaths associated with the coronavirus pandemic. West Virginia has recorded 2,291 deaths.

Johnson & Johnson’s data submitted earlier this month showed that the vaccine was 72 percent effective in preventing cases of moderate to severe covid-19 in the United States.  The vaccine was 85 percent protective against severe cases of covid-19.

The advisory committee that met today includes pediatricians, infectious-disease doctors and biostatisticians. The FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Johnson & Johnson made presentations.  The panel’s recommendation is likely to lead to emergency approval.

Dr. Ayne Amjad

“People hear a lot about percentages. I want people to keep in mind the normal flu vaccine is a 60- to 70- percent effective vaccine,” said State Health Officer Ayne Amjad.

“These are great vaccines. They work. They’re acceptable. You’re going to have three good vaccines available that have been made in less than a year for us.”

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