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October 27, 2021

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Vaccines and more

By Karen Kier
Pharmacist on behalf of the
ONU HealthWise team
www.onuhealthwisepharmacy.com
419/772-3784

Ohio, like the rest of the nation has seen a recent small spike in the number of COVID-19 cases. While this is disappointing since the numbers had being going down, there is hope with a third COVID-19 vaccine getting Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) this week.

The vaccines are working and more vaccines to the public means more protection from this pandemic. 

The New England Journal of Medicine published a study from Israel on February 24, 2021 documenting that the COVID-19 vaccines are helping thwart the infection rate. The study was done between December 20, 2020 and February 1, 2021 with 596,618 individuals getting the vaccine compared to 596,618 not receiving the vaccine.

The study was with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The researchers found the vaccine was 94% effective 7 days after the second shot.  This is similar to the Pfizer studies completed in the United States.

The Israeli study did note that near the end of the study more mutated strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus were appearing and the Pfizer vaccine was still effective for most patients. In those study participants who did get an infection after the vaccine, it did reduce the severity of the disease and hospitalization rates. This is a great lead into the newest member of the COVID-19 vaccines in the United States.

Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) submitted their clinical study data to the FDA, which was reviewed by the advisory committee on Friday, February 26. 2021. The FDA gave EUA to Janssen’s COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday, February 27, 2021.

Johnson & Johnson has announced they plan to distribute four million doses this week. The FDA has released the fact sheets for the health care providers and for recipients/caregivers (https://www.fda.gov/media/146305/download). 

An advantage of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is that it is a one-time shot. The vaccine is shipped frozen but then can be stored in the refrigerator for 12 hours after thawed. The Janssen vaccine platform is much more stable than the mRNA vaccines and travels better. The vial contains five doses of the vaccine.  It works differently than the other EUA vaccines in the United States.

This vaccine is not mRNA like both Pfizer and Moderna but rather uses a viral vector technology. So what does that mean? The mRNA vaccines are a single-strand RNA that tells the body to make the spike protein to fight off COVID-19 but Janssen’s vaccine is a double-stranded DNA embedded in an adenovirus.

The DNA directs the body to make the spike protein. It is important to note that this DNA will not alter your DNA but rather can only direct the spike protein for COVID-19.

You might recognize the adenovirus as the name for the virus that can cause us to get a cold. So a logical question would be -can I get a cold from this vaccine?  The adenovirus is modified so that it will not replicate in the body so it will not cause a cold. As with the other vaccines, it will not give you a COVID-19 infection. The Janssen vaccine is approved for ages 18 years and older.

The vaccine is given in the muscle (deltoid) of the upper arm. Some have expressed concern that this one dose is not as effective at preventing COVID-19 infection. Here are some important facts.

The vaccine works within 14 days after getting the single dose. Janssen had some of the most diverse patient populations in their studies including people from countries that had more variant (mutant) strains. The vaccine was 100% effective in preventing hospitalization if someone got a COVID-19 infection after they received the shot and reduced severe disease by 85%.

This is very relevant because the infections were mild in nature and did not require ICU admission or mechanical ventilation to breathe. The vaccine is about to 60-66% effective in preventing infection. 

On February 26, the FDA revised the storage requirements for the Pfizer vaccine and the company no longer has to ship and store the drug at the ultra-low freezer temperature.  Both Moderna and Pfizer can be stored in normal freezer temperatures. 

In other news, some information has been discussed that those individuals who have already had a documented COVID-19 infection may only need one COVID-19 vaccine dose of Moderna and Pfizer.

Some small studies have indicated that one additional dose may be all they need to get a sufficient antibody response. The Federal Government has not changed its recommendation and is advocating for both doses at this point. Why? Well, the studies are small in number right now and in these studies, they had good confirmation of infection and antibodies. The scientists feel that we may need more studies to determine that this is the right course of action.  So get your second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

It is still important to wear your mask, stay six feet apart, and wash your hands. Talk to your health care professional when you have questions or contact the ONU HealthWise Pharmacy at www.onuhealthwisepharmacy.com.  

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