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Pfizer releases new vaccine efficacies, while J&J vaccine shipments get delayed

Johnson & Johnson vaccine shipments have been delayed after cross-contamination occurred in a Baltimore production facility.

Mallory Hackett, Associate Editor

Photo by Halfpoint Images/Getty ImagesPhoto by Halfpoint Images/Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech, the makers of a Food and Drug Administration authorized COVID-19 vaccine, have shared that their shot remains highly effective after six months from the second dose.

The updated results from their vaccine study included 927 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among more than 46,000 participants. Among the confirmed cases, 850 were in the placebo group and 77 were in the treatment group, meaning the vaccine was 91.3% effective against COVID-19.

Additionally, the vaccine was found to be 95% effective against severe cases as defined by the FDA. It also showed an efficacy of 100% against the B.1.351 variant, which is prevalent in South Africa.

Of the more than 12,000 vaccinated participants who followed up after six months, none exhibited serious safety concerns, the companies said.

Earlier this week, Pfizer and BioNTech announced their vaccine was also highly effective in adolescents aged 12 to 15. It demonstrated 100% efficacy among 2,260 participants and had side effects similar to those among participants 16 to 25 years of age.

The companies said they would submit these results to the FDA and European Medicines Agency "as quickly as possible" to expand the vaccine's use in adolescents.

While these updates from Pfizer and BioNTech bode well for their shot, another COVID-19 vaccine-maker hit a roadblock in production this week after millions of doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were contaminated at a manufacturing plant in Baltimore, according to The New York Times.

Following the error, the FDA stopped shipments to the federal government and began an investigation into the Emergent BioSolutions facility, which was manufacturing both the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines, the Times said.

Workers at the plant accidentally mixed up the two vaccines' ingredients, causing roughly 15 million doses to be ruined.

The mix-up does not affect any Johnson & Johnson doses already being used and distributed nationwide, however it could impact the 24 million doses expected to come from the Baltimore plant next month, according to the report.

Regardless, federal officials told the Times they still expect to have enough doses between the three approved vaccines to carry out President Biden's promise to have enough vaccines for every adult by the end of May.

WHY THIS MATTERS

Vaccinating the American public is a key factor to President Biden's National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness.

By mounting a safe, effective and comprehensive vaccination campaign, the federal government hopes to achieve herd immunity, something that wouldn't be possible without inoculation, according to the World Health Institute.

The percentage of the population that needs to be immune to reach herd immunity varies by disease, but experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, believe 75% to 85% will need to get vaccinated to reach the mark.

So far in the U.S. vaccine effort, nearly 154 million doses have been administered, making up about 17% of the total population that has been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

THE LARGER TREND

New research from the National Institutes of Health suggests that immunized individuals can fight off the known new strains of COVID-19. The study had a sample size of only 30 people, but the data provide evidence that the T-cell response among immunized individuals is largely not affected by the mutations found in the virus variants and should also offer protection against further strains that may evolve.

Providers who administer the COVID-19 vaccine recently got a bump in their Medicare payments, up from $28 to $40 to administer a single dose, and an increase from approximately $45 to $80 for the administration of vaccines requiring two doses.

Meanwhile, a recent poll shows that 71% of people in their 50s, 60s and 70s are now ready to get vaccinated against COVID-19 when a dose becomes available to them or had already gotten vaccinated by the time they were polled in late January. That's up from 58% in October.

Twitter: @HackettMallory
Email the writer: mhackett@himss.org