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The one & done approach of the J&J Covid-19 vaccine is a game changer: ProHEALTH Chief of Infectious Disease

Dr. Daniel Griffin, ProHEALTH Chief of Infectious Disease joins the Yahoo Finance Live panel with latest COVID-19 vaccine news.

Video Transcript

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AKIKO FUJITA: The Food and Drug Administration meeting today to review the data for Johnson and Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine. Certainly a lot of hope riding on this one because it is a one-shot vaccine. The company's already agreed to provide 10 million doses of its vaccine by the end of-- or 100 million doses, I should say, by the end of June.

Let's bring in Dr. Daniel Griffin. He is chief of infectious disease at ProHEALTH. Doctor, it's good to talk to you today. Let's talk about how significantly this could change the game and this larger goal to reach herd immunity. How quickly does a one-shot vaccine speed things along?

DANIEL GRIFFIN: This is huge. I was glad that you misspoke, that it was not 10, but it is, as we've heard, 100 million doses that we are expected to see, actually just in the next couple months here. This is huge, this one-and-done approach.

There's been logistical challenges, right, with the mRNA vaccines, a lot of confusion and challenges with the freezer requirement. The J&J one-and-done vaccine is a vaccine that sits in normal refrigerators. This is the-- everyone keeps saying, when's the normal vaccine going to come out? This is kind of that. This is one shot and you're done.

It takes about seven weeks to get up to that 100% efficacy with regard to keeping you from dying or in the ICU with COVID-19. This is a game changer. This is huge.

BRIAN CHEUNG: Dr. Griffin, Brian Cheung here. Thanks for joining us. Now, I guess one question, naturally, is about the efficacy of this J&J vaccine, which, as we know, looks like it's not as strong as the two-dose over at Pfizer and Moderna. But what is, I guess, the importance of having this third vaccine, at least as an option? And do you think that the change in efficacy is actually going to be maybe a turnoff for some people and hesitancy, you know, as they try to get a vaccine wherever they can really honestly get one?

DANIEL GRIFFIN: No, Brian, I think that's fantastic. Nice-- asked the hard question, because this is what-- this is what people need to know about. There's two efficacy points. One is how-- how good is this vaccine at making sure that I don't end up in an ICU and die of COVID-19? And I have to say that the data we've been hearing-- and we'll get a little bit more into the weeds on it today-- is that the J&J vaccine, just like Pfizer, just like Moderna-- is close to 100% at that endpoint.

Now, if I get the vaccine, am I still going to get the sniffles? Sure. As far as preventing you from getting that mild, just sort of a runny nose, we know with the mRNA vaccines we're about 94%, 95%. We know with the original strain about 72% for the J&J vaccine. So, yeah, a little bit of a break point there on how good it is at keeping you from getting just a little bit of a mild symptomatic case.

But that's also at an early time point. One of the great things about J&J-- and we'll see more data on this-- is that as a little time goes by, it looks like that immunity actually is improving. So actually look for it-- I'm going to sort of predict a little bit of the future-- when we start looking about how protective is this at two, three months after that shot, we may be getting up into the 80s, 90s for this vaccine as well at preventing any symptoms at all.

And also-- Brian, this is, I think, really exciting-- we are hearing rumors that we're going to hear transmission interruption data. So one of the big things people keep hoping for with the vaccines is not just that it keeps a vaccinated person safe, but that it's going to end the pandemic. It's going to interrupt transmission. And we hear some rumors that we're going to hear some of that data presented today at the FDA meeting.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, I think a lot of viewers, their ears just perked up, right? This is something that we have been waiting for for a while. A question that I know you've gotten repeatedly, but I think it's worth asking again, which is how these new variants complicate the overall picture. We've spent so many months talking about the UK variant, the South African variant. But increasingly, there seems to be concern about this new variant that's come out of California and how much more infectious that is. How do you see the outlook, given these new variants that have emerged?

DANIEL GRIFFIN: No, some of us refer to this as the variant fever, right? There's a lot of attention. There's a lot of concern. Is this going to change? Are we going to lose the gains that we're getting? And I think we can break it down into these two numbers with the vaccines.

The variants do not seem to impact that really important endpoint as far as are you going to die from COVID? Are you going to end up in the ICU? Does it impact the vaccines to some degree with regard to, are you going to have a mild symptomatic case of COVID? I think the data says yes, that might be true.

But it does look like all the vaccines-- mRNA vaccines that we have, now the J&J-- it looks like, though they might lose a little bit of bang for that preventing symptoms, it looks like we're still going to see that 100% protection against-- or I should say close to 100%. Nothing's 100%, except for death, I guess. But we're not going to see that death in people that get vaccinated.

BRIAN CHEUNG: All right. Well, the light's certainly at the end of the tunnel. Dr. Daniel Griffin, ProHEALTH chief of infectious disease, thank you so much for joining us today.