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Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine wins FDA approval

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Dr. Sejal Hathi, Physician & Clinical Fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital & host of “Civic Rx” podcast, joined Yahoo FInance Live to break down how Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine has won FDA approval.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: Shares of Johnson & Johnson have been trading higher all session. That, of course, on the news that the FDA has now approved and they are distributing under emergency use authorization J&J's one-shot COVID-19 vaccine. Alex Gorsky is the CEO of Johnson & Johnson. He spoke with Anjalee Khemlani about the vaccine just about two hours ago.

ALEX GORSKY: We knew that it was going to be important to try to do it in one dose because the logistics, the administrative challenges of having two doses or having significant refrigeration could also get in the way of access. And last but not least, and went to one of your earlier points, to do it on a not for profit basis, because we didn't want cost, we didn't want price to get into the way. We felt that that was the way to be the most comprehensive holistic approach, not only here in the United States, but let alone, around the world.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Let's talk about all of this with Dr. Sejal Hathi is the physician and clinical fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital and host of "Civic RX," the podcast. Thank you for joining us. Doctor, help us understand, is this a game changer that Johnson & Johnson's vaccine is now available?

SEJAL HATHI: Oh, absolutely. I think it's incredible news for all of us. We should all be encouraged that we now have three excellent vaccines available to administer to Americans all across this country. People focus really on these topline numbers, and more specifically, that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 66% effective at preventing moderate to severe cases of COVID-19. And they compare that to the Pfizer and to the Moderna vaccines and say, well, is it an inferior choice? How thrilled should we be?

And the reality is that the most crucial measure that we must consistently look at is hospitalizations and deaths. And on that front, the J&J vaccine approaches pretty significantly the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccine. So all three vaccines here are excellent. All three I would recommend to my family, my friends, my patients.

And of course, there are many advantages to a single shot vaccine that can be stored in much warmer temperatures as the J&J vaccine is over the Pfizer and Moderna.

SEANA SMITH: Yeah, doctor, I wanted to ask you about that because when we talk about some of those advantages of just having a single dose vaccine, I guess, how much faster do you expect us to be able to get the American public vaccinated when one of the three vaccines that have now been approved is just a single dose?

SEJAL HATHI: That's an excellent question, and, you know, currently, about 75 million Americans have been vaccinated. That's about 15% of the population. And what I mean by that is have received at least one dose of a vaccine. And at that rate, namely 1.7 million doses of vaccine a day, it would still take until approximately Thanksgiving for us to achieve herd immunity, which is the level of immunity that we need really to stop transmission and make this not a concerning pandemic.

But with Johnson & Johnson in place in which we only really need that one dose, things are looking up for all of us. I think that we can definitely look to hopefully accelerating the amount of doses and therefore the amount of full vaccinations that we're able to give Americans over the course of the next few weeks.

The challenge, of course, is that right now, Johnson & Johnson really only has four million doses available that they're shipping this week. And it's probably going to take at least until April for that 100 million doses that the federal government has purchased to get out in distribution. But the news is still bright. And I expect that we'll be moving a lot faster now with them on board.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Should we be concerned-- because they were promising that we would have the 100 million doses much sooner than they're going to be able to deliver-- that there might be mistakes they make at the facility in the Baltimore area?

SEJAL HATHI: I wouldn't necessarily think that there are mistakes that we should expect. I think, inevitably, vaccinating millions of Americans a day is a Herculean undertaking. And there will be hiccups along the way. But I think that we can expect these doses to be produced as fast as is possible. And I think the federal government and the Biden administration is pushing them to get moving. So it probably won't take till-- it probably will take until April for those doses to be delivered. But thereafter, once we ramp up, I think things will be looking better.