Johnson & Johnson vaccine approval would have major impact on Colorado

DENVER (KDVR) — As the Johnson & Johnson vaccine awaits emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Colorado medical professionals are eager for a bolster of vaccine supply in March.

“It’s more vaccine that’s available to our public,” said Denver Health Chief Medical Officer Connie Price. “When you think about the difficulty with some of our populations and getting two doses in them, this is huge.”

F.D.A. staff deemed the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine as safe and effective in trials, which paves the way for approval in the coming days.

“You don’t have to have the ultra-cold freezer, so that means you can take it out into the field, you can go a lot more places to access people who just aren’t going to come to you,” Price said.

While data shows this vaccine is 66% effective at preventing COVID illness — compared to 95% effectiveness of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines — researchers say there are reasons for that, and would even prefer the Johnson & Johnson single shot.

The application for a single-dose vaccine also has potential to reach certain Colorado populations in more effective ways.

“I think for people that are unsheltered and living outside and not coming inside, that it will be one way to get vaccines to people who generally come in and access services,” said Cathy Alderman with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

Because of the lack of storage limitations, the vaccine has a longer shelf life, and can stretch to more rural areas of Colorado without refrigeration requirements.

Johnson & Johnson told Congress this week to expect 20 million doses by the end of March. Colorado receives 1.6% of the country’s weekly allocation, so the state could see more than 300,000 doses of this vaccine within that time frame.

In a statement to the FOX31 Problem Solvers, a spokesperson for the Colorado Hospital Association said:

Colorado hospitals and health systems are encouraged by the news of a possible Emergency Use Authorization for the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. The state has asked hospitals to play a large role in the vaccine rollout so far, and hospitals across the state have found a way to reach their communities with the Pfizer and/or the Moderna vaccines. One of the main hurdles we have faced during that effort is vaccine supply, so anything that increases the supply we have available is welcome news.

A third COVID-19 vaccine option – and especially one that is a one-dose administration – will benefit all Colorado communities. This will allow hospitals and other vaccine providers to reach patients who may not be able to easily or reliably access the second dose, such as those who are homebound, those who are experiencing homelessness, or those who are geographically isolated.