A single-shot coronavirus vaccine will soon be available in the U.S. for the first time. Over the weekend the Food & Drug Administration authorized Johnson & Johnson's vaccine for emergency use, and 4 million doses are being shipped out today.
This vaccine could dramatically speed up efforts to bring our everyday lives back to normal. Medical trials have found the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 85 percent effective against severe illness, and resulted in zero COVID-related deaths.
The first single-dose vaccine approved in the U.S., it is also easier to distribute, because it doesn't need to be stored in extreme cold temperatures.
This morning, the first of four million vaccine doses were being packaged at a Johnson & Johnson facility before being loaded onto cargo planes later today at a UPS facility in Louisville, for distribution to the federal government, CBS News correspondent Errol Barnett reported.
Bluetooth-enabled labels, which UPS designed, will make sure every package is tracked.
UPS tells CBS News it will take roughly 20 hours to move those items to states where people will actually get the shot, so by early tomorrow morning that will be available to be administered.
Johnson & Johnson expects to deliver more than 20 million doses by the end of March, and 100 million by the end of June.
Speaking on "CBS This Morning" Monday, J&J CEO Alex Gorsky said of the single-dose vaccine, "That's 100 million people by the end of June can have one shot and be done. And so, we think that the convenience, the ease of logistics that's going to represent is significant, not only for our country but for people around the world."
So far, according to the CDC, only 7.5% of Americans have received both doses of the other approved vaccines, by Pfizer and Moderna.
"Knowing that we've got a safe and effective single-shot option that doesn't require extensive refrigeration should help that distribution, that kind of bottleneck that we've been seeing – significantly – in the coming weeks and months," said Gorsky. "The fact that we got the thumbs-up from the FDA and the CDC is just going to have such an important impact for patients and health care systems around the world."
The vaccine is being shipped to the federal government, which is working with states to distribute to communities.
Gorsky said the clinical trials for the one-shot vaccine were conducted between September 2020 to January 2021, when the incidence rate was at its highest levels seen so far. Trials were held around the world, with 40% of patients in the United States, 40% in Latin America, and about 15% in South Africa (over 90% of whom had the South African variant of the coronavirus).
"So, whether it was the South African variant that we know is particularly challenging, or the P2 variant in Brazil, our vaccine showed 85% effectiveness in severe disease, and it kept all the patients out of the hospital and from dying," Gorsky said. "So again, even in these most challenging areas during the highest incidence rate, we're seeing these kind of results with a single shot.
"Again, it's going to be really important for people to get a shot as soon as they possibly can," he said.
Gorsky also said that while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is approved for use in patients 18 and older, they are starting studies for people between the ages of 12 and 18. "We're looking at starting trials even in younger patients, in pregnant women, because we realize we need to generate that kind of information, so that people can have the trust and confidence for it to be used, and we're very confident that over the course of 2021 we'll have that data available," he said.