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Doctor: ‘Do not throw away that chance’ to get any of the vaccines

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Dr. Dana Hawkinson, The University of Kansas Health System Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control & Infectious Diseases Doctor, joins Yahoo Finance’s Kristin Myers to discuss FDA approval of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: Let's continue with more on the coronavirus pandemic. We're joined now by Dr. Dana Hawkinson. He's an infectious disease doctor and Medical Director of Infection, Prevention and Control for the University of Kansas Health System. That is a mouthful, doctor.

So let's start with this news on Johnson & Johnson. We were, of course, just hearing from the CEO, Alex Gorsky. How much is Johnson & Johnson's single dose vaccine receiving this emergency use authorization from the FDA really a game changer as you see it in this pandemic?

DANA HAWKINSON: Yeah, I think it's going to help a lot. We've talked about supply issues. We know there was supply with the first two vaccines that were EUA, Emergency Use Authorized. We know there were supply issues. This is going to add one more piece to our armamentarium for prevention, and that's the vaccine.

And we heard him speak about how many they're expecting right now and in the future. This is going to help, because we need the vaccines. But more importantly, we need the vaccines to get into arms.

And we know that there are some storage issues with the mRNA vaccines and the cold storage, whatnot. This will help, because it will also give us the ability to get these vaccines to other places that don't have the ability to store those. So I think it will be a game changer.

Also, the fact that it's one dose. We know that some people are already not maybe going back for their second dose and don't understand that with Moderna and Pfizer, you need to get the second doses. This is going to help a great deal. People can go, once it's available at their clinics, at other pharmacies, go get a single dose. And within 12 days to 14 days, they're going to have full protection.

KRISTIN MYERS: OK. But how much should folks be concerned? You know about the differing efficacy rates of some of these vaccines. this Johnson & Johnson vaccine a little bit over 70%, when you have the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines over 90%.

If you are in the doctor's office and the doctor says, hey, we have this J&J vaccine for you, you know, should folks-- or do you anticipate a lot of folks out there will say, no, I really want to take the Pfizer vaccine. Or, I want to take the Moderna vaccine.

DANA HAWKINSON: Yeah. I mean, I think there is some-- even between Moderna and Pfizer, we have seen that with people. Should I wait and get one of those vaccines over the other? And now if we're going to have three-- two different platforms.

But I think the main thing that we need to continue to message is that if you look at the data-- again, the studies for these vaccines were different. So you really can't compare apples to apples. There is a different platform as well, so you can't compare those.

The studies for Moderna and Pfizer were meant to look at two doses. So we really don't want to draw a lot of conclusions for a single dose. The study for Johnson & Johnson was for one dose. So we use that data.

But I think it's important to understand, what is the main point of all of these vaccines? And we heard him talk about it on the earlier segment. It protects you against severe and critical disease. It protects you from going to the hospital. And most importantly, it protects you from death. And that's what all of these vaccines do so far in all of the data. And so that's the important thing to remember.

If you have a chance to get any one of those vaccines, do not throw away that chance. And go ahead and get the vaccine, because the most important thing we're looking at is really trying to stop severe critical disease and death. And all of these do that with high efficiency.

KRISTIN MYERS: I'm wondering about the mutations and some of the variations. We've heard a lot of the pharmaceutical companies say that, you know, they're potentially tweaking some of their vaccines to really adjust for that. We're starting to really pay a lot more attention, at least when it comes to testing, for some of these variants. How much do these mutations, these new strains of the virus remain a concern in this fight against the coronavirus?

DANA HAWKINSON: Yeah, understanding RNA viruses like HIV, like this coronavirus, we understand that there are going to be variations, variants, mutations. We know those are going to happen. Those just happen in the real world.

As you continue to have more and more infections, and thereby have more and more viral replications, those variants can come up at a larger or quicker pace. But we don't know the full extent of those variants, and we don't know the full extent of the variants we haven't even identified yet. What we do know is that with these vaccines, they really do target the spike protein.

And on that spike protein, there are about 20 different areas to which we make an immune response, the most important being probably the receptor, or the end of the spike that binds with the receptor on our bodies. But we can still elicit immune responses by other pieces on that spike.

And we know, and we heard before too, that we are able to see real-world experience, even in South Africa-- for which 90% plus of the people in those trials had the South African variant, the B1.351. But we still were able to see a significant reduction in severe critical disease as well as death.

So right now, it doesn't appear to be too important. But it's something that many people are always keeping an eye on. And we will continue to evaluate that. And the vaccine makers and the drug makers will continue to evaluate those.

KRISTIN MYERS: As you see it, doctor, what really is the biggest threat to US coming out of the other side of this pandemic right now?

DANA HAWKINSON: You know, I don't think it's one thing. I think we have come over a hill. I think it's looking good from what we can see based on the recent data showing a decrease in the number of cases. Although, recently it has kind of turned around and started to plateau and maybe have increased.

But also, now we have more vaccine. And if we can continue to get those vaccines out into the arms of the people, especially the most vulnerable in our population, we can then by reduce viral replication. We know that in real-world studies, as you've seen with the Pfizer vaccine and the Israeli publication, but also some of the early or addendum data from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, showing that it actually does seem to reduce asymptomatic disease.

So thereby, we hope that it reduces spread. And that's the ultimate goal, is to really reduce the spread of this virus. And so far, these vaccines look like they do actually help reduce the spread as well.

KRISTIN MYERS: Dr. Dana Hawkinson, Medical Director of Infection, Prevention and Control for the University of Kansas Health System. Thanks so much for bringing us all of those updates.