AUGUSTA, Ga. – This week, the FDA found the new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to be safe and effective.
With this vaccine, you’d only need to get one shot instead of two, and it can be stored in normal freezers. A report found it’s 66 percent effective against the virus.
That may sound like a failing grade, but we found it’s actually a lot better than it sounds.
Around 1,400 people were vaccinated across two of Augusta University Health’s vaccination sites Thursday. That’s already a big impact, but AU sees the potential for more. Especially with a new vaccine on the way.
“Prior to December, if we would’ve seen a vaccine that was 66 percent effective … we’d be thrilled with that,” said Dr. Joshua Wyche.
He says that means the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is more effective than your average flu shot. But you may say the other options are better.
It’s possible, but AU Health says these are the numbers that matter: it’s 85 percent effective at preventing severe COVID-19. And no one in the study with this vaccine was hospitalized or died.
“The fact that we are seeing that good of numbers even with these variants, in addition to the original strain, is very positive news,” Wyche said.
But the key with this new shot is access. It only needs a normal refrigerator, and that alone opens the door for others to vaccinate.
“Private practice doctor’s offices, more pharmacies,” Wyche explained. ”It really makes it very convenient for rural communities.”
Rural communities often miss out on the access of large-scale vaccination sites.
But with Gov. Brian Kemp adding teachers to the vaccination list, even local schools could be an option.
“We certainly are developing strategies where we would like to partner with the school systems, and we are floating those strategies and discussing those with the Board of Education,” Wyche said.
But experts say with each vaccination, we are moving in the right direction. And with more vaccines on the way, the return to “normal” gets closer and closer.
“If we can continue to vaccinate a larger and larger percentage of the population, ultimately we will see less transmission. Less transmission means less variation in these new variants that come up,” Wyche said.
AU says they are looking at the possibility of drive-up clinics to get to hard-to-reach areas.
They say the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should make vaccination more convenient.
AU says with the new vaccine coming available, they plan to increase their vaccination effort across the community.
Kemp says newly eligible people can start signing up Friday at www.MyVaccineGeorgia.com. He said he’ll expand eligibility later in March to more people with high-risk health conditions.