FDA Authorizes a Third COVID-19 Vaccine

Cummings School veterinary pathologist aided research behind new single-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson

Amanda Martinot in safety gear working in a lab. The Cummings School veterinary pathologist aided research behind new single-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson

On Feb. 27 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized a new single-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson for emergency use to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new vaccine from Johnson & Johnson was shown to be 72 percent effective in the United States and 66 percent effective globally in preventing any symptomatic COVID-19 disease in a multinational study. The vaccine was 85 percent effective at preventing severe complications from the virus; no one who received the vaccine in the studies was hospitalized or died due to COVD-19.

The vaccine was developed through a collaboration between Johnson & Johnson and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, with support from Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Veterinary pathologists at Tufts worked with BIDMC immunologist Dan H. Barouch and co-investigators on multiple studies, including one in hamsters that was among first to report vaccine protection against severe COVID-19-related pneumonia and death.

“I was thrilled to see that results in the human clinical trials mirrored the results predicted by the pre-clinical studies that we have been contributing to,” said Cummings School assistant professor Amanda Martinot, a veterinary pathologist and a co-author on several studies with Barouch. “Personally, it feels really good to be scientist, pathologist, and vaccine researcher right now. I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to this important work.”

Although the protection reported for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines last fall was higher at 95 percent, these previous studies were conducted last fall prior to the emergence of the viral variants that are more contagious and partially resistant to antibodies. The J&J vaccine shows effectiveness against these variants and provides another tool to help beat back the pandemic.

In addition to increasing the total number of vaccination doses available, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine also should be easier to distribute. That’s because, unlike the other two available vaccines, it requires just one shot to help protect individuals. A more heat-stable vaccine, it also can be refrigerated for up to three months, making it easier to ship and store.

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