(CNN) — The United States just added another powerful tool in the fight against COVID-19 to its inventory: a third vaccine. This time from Johnson and Johnson (J&J).
This latest piece of good news comes at a time when U.S. health leaders say it’s critical in the country’s battle against the virus as declines in cases begin to stabilize and concern over highly communicable variants increases.
“Starting tonight, 3.9 million doses of J&J will be distributed to all channels, states, tribes, territories, and pharmacies and community health centers,” a senior government official said in a conference call Sunday. the night. “Those doses of J&J will be delivered this Tuesday morning.”
After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, on Saturday, advisers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted for the next day to recommend the vaccine. The agency director approved that recommendation almost immediately, overcoming the final hurdle before the vaccine could be given.
“As a one-dose vaccine, people don’t have to come back for a second dose to be protected,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Sunday. Additionally, this vaccine does not need to be stored in a freezer and can be stored at refrigerated temperatures, making it easy to transport and store and allows for greater availability in most community settings and mobile sites as supply increases. ‘
While the official said Johnson & Johnson told the White House that the weekly supply of vaccines will be limited for the next two weeks after the initial distribution, experts hope the additional doses will help increase the number of vaccines and help the country in its race to vaccinate as many Americans as possible before another expected increase in covid-19 cases.
“There’s a kind of new urgency,” Dr. Eric Rubin, a member of the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee and a professor at Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health, told CNN Sunday. “Because new viral variants are emerging right now, with some chance that some of them will eventually become somewhat resistant to the protection that vaccines provide, it’s really important to administer them quickly.”
The vaccine comes at a “potentially crucial moment”
Coronavirus variants are why health leaders have stressed that it is especially important to continue to practice safety precautions now, and help reduce covid-19 infection numbers, as states work to vaccinate more residents.
More than 2,460 cases of coronavirus variants first detected in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil have so far been reported in the United States, according to CDC data.
The vast majority of these cases – 2,400 – are of the highly contagious variant known as B.1,1.7. The variant was first detected in the United Kingdom, and the CDC previously warned that it will likely become the predominant variant in America this month. The agency has previously said that these numbers do not represent the total number of variant cases circulating in the United States, but only those that have been found by testing positive samples.
Several experts have already sounded the alarm about a possible surge driven by variant B.1,1.7 that could be just a few weeks away.
A report Dr. Michael Osterholm and colleagues at the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy said the proportion of cases of this variant is increasing rapidly in some parts of the United States and a “major spike in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the near future are still a great possibility. ‘
Walensky, the CDC director, warned – late last week – that the United States may be seeing the “early effects” of the spread of variants, with a recent steep decline in cases now apparently slowing down. .
On Sunday he said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine comes “at a potentially crucial time.”
“The latest CDC data suggests that recent declines in COVID-19 cases may be stalling and potentially stabilizing at still very high numbers,” Walensky said in a statement. “That is why it is so important that we remain vigilant and consistently take all mitigation measures that we know work to stop the spread of COVID-19 as we work our way towards mass vaccination.”
How many Americans have been vaccinated
For now, mass vaccination in the United States is still a long way off.
More than 49.7 million Americans have received at least their first dose of the covid-19 vaccine, they show CDC data.
More than 24.7 million have received both doses, according to the CDC. That’s roughly 7.5% of the US population.
While states across the country have struggled with supply shortages, among other challenges to receive injections in your arms, officials are hopeful that vaccines will only continue to increase with more doses on the way.
Pfizer and Moderna have committed to having a combined 220 million doses available for shipment by the end of this month. And Johnson & Johnson promised to make 20 million doses available in the same time frame.
– CNN’s Jason Hoffman, Michael Nedelman and Maggie Fox contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism