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Third US vaccine could raise question: Which shots are best?

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If cleared for emergency use, the J&J vaccine would offer a one-dose option that could help speed vaccinations
Washington — The nation is poised to get a third vaccine against COVID-19, but because at first glance the Johnson & Johnson shot may not be seen as equal to other options, health officials are girding for the question: Which one is best? If cleared for emergency use, the J&J vaccine would offer a one-dose option that could help speed vaccinations, tamp down a pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 people in the U.S. and stay ahead of a mutating virus. “I think it’s going to be huge,” said Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the public health department in Marion County, Indiana, which includes Indianapolis. She expects the easier-to-use vaccine will give local officials more flexibility for mobile vaccination clinics or pop-up events. The challenge will be explaining how protective the J&J shot is after the astounding success of the first U.S. vaccines. Two doses of the Pfizer and Moderna shots were found to be about 95% effective against symptomatic COVID-19. The numbers from J&J’s study are not that high, but it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. One dose of the J&J vaccine was 85% protective against the most severe COVID-19. After adding in moderate cases, the total effectiveness dropped to about 66%. “I don’t think it’s a second-tier vaccine, but we’ve got to avoid that perception,” said Dr. Thomas Balcezak of Yale New Haven Health System. The J&J shot was tested in the U.S., Latin America and South Africa at a time when more contagious mutated versions of the virus were spreading.

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