LETTER from RICHARD STERNBERG
This past Sunday the Director of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) approved the use of the COVID-vaccine produced by Janssen/Johnson & Johnson. The day before the FDA determined that the vaccine was safe and effective for the prevention of COVID-19 and gave it an EUA (emergency use authorization).
On Monday, the state Task Force unanimously recommended its use.
The entire current inventory of 3.9 million doses is scheduled to ship this week. J&J says it plans to manufacture enough additional doses to ship 16 million by the end of March. New York State is supposed to receive somewhere between 93,000 doses and 160,000 this week depending on whether you believe the Feds or the state. In any event, this is very good news.
There have been some concerns from some people; two called me today. They are concerned that this vaccine is not as effective as those already approved. They want to know if they should get the J&J vaccine now if available, or wait to get either the Moderna or Pfizer one.
The answer to that is a bit nuanced.
Government experts are saying it is better to get any vaccine now rather than waiting for a different one later. I agree with that but, moreso, I am not scientifically convinced that the J&J vaccine is actually less effective than the two previously approved.
One, the J&J vaccine has essentially the same effectiveness against severe and fatal infections. Secondly, the testing of this vaccine was done at different times, under different circumstances, against multiple strains of the virus rather than essentially one stain for which they were specifically designed against, than for the Pfizer and Moderna ones. Statistics also suggest that the one-dose J&J is more effective than only one dose of the other two.
Since the J&J vaccines only requires one vaccination rather than two, this effectively allows twice as many people to be adequately vaccinated for each dose manufactured, with half the distribution and clinical administration costs. It is much more easily stored and transported than either of the other two.
Another reason that it is best to get immunized with whichever vaccine is available is that it seems we may be heading into a third spike in cases.
The decline in documented cases, hospitalizations, severe cases and deaths nationally seems to be reversing itself and increasing. This is theorized to be both a consequence of newer, more virulent strains, but also that, again, people are relaxing precautions under the theory that now that there are vaccines, things will continue to get better.
Sadly, as people start becoming cavalier about the disease, they leave themselves open to catch and spread the disease.
Right now, only about 8 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated against the disease. More than 90 percent of the population do not have full or in most cases any immunity.
In my opinion, only when 80-85 percent of the population has immunity, due to vaccination or having had COVID-19, will we have reached reasonable herd immunity.
While we have heard talk about 70 percent being adequate with measles, there are high risks unless we have 90-percent immunity. I don’t think COVID-19 is significantly different.
Finally, decrease in acute death should not be the only outcome that we worry about. I have discussed the syndrome of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). We are also beginning to learn about Long-Haulers Syndrome where people recover from the acute infection but have long term consequences of their neurovascular, cardiac, renal, and other systems.
Bottom line, get vaccinated as soon as possible, do not travel unnecessarily, maintain social distancing, wear your masks (doubled) correctly, and avoid people who won’t follow the rules.