Doctors say once you're eligible, get the first COVID-19 vaccine available to you

NOW: Doctors say once you’re eligible, get the first COVID-19 vaccine available to you

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) - U.S. health advisers recommended a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson on Friday. Friday’s recommendation by health advisers makes Johnson & Johnson the next likely vaccine to be authorized by the FDA, but its lower efficacy rate when compared to current vaccines available may deter some people.

Doctors say there is some concern people may wait because they’d rather get a dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine over Johnson & Johnson’s, but they say waiting is not a good idea.  

“I think there’s some, you know, concern that that could be the case, and what we might end up seeing is people not getting vaccinated instead of getting vaccinated with one,” said Dr. Matt Anderson, senior medical director at UW Health.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both have near 95-percent efficacy rates, while Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine sits at 66-percent overall. Doctors say while Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine has a lower efficacy rate in preventing COVID-19 infection, it still gives full protection against hospitalizations and deaths.

“They had zero hospitalizations 28 days after vaccination for those who did get infected,” Dr. Anderson said.

While it’s important to avoid infection, doctors say preventing severe illness is a crucial piece. They say the country wouldn’t be under restrictions if the illness didn’t cause people to be hospitalized, so it’s important people get whatever vaccine is available to them first.

“If we’re having transmission, but that transmission only results in illness that doesn’t lead to hospitalization, that’s a vast improvement over what we’ve had over the last twelve months,” adds Dr. Anderson.

“A vaccine is better than no vaccine, so whatever is available for you, take it,” says Dr. Njeri Wainaina, associate professor of infectious diseases at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Experts say a CDC immunization committee will eventually address whether some vaccines should be used for certain populations as more and more come down the pipeline.

“We may get to a point where there are some vaccines that are directed toward high risk populations and others for more healthy kind of general population,” said Dr. James Conway, medical director of  the UW Health Immunization Program.

Doctors say for now, take what you can get, because there are risks with waiting for a specific vaccine.

“You could get sick from this and sick enough that you have to be in the hospital or in the ICU or God forbid, die from the disease,” Dr. Wainaina says.

“Getting more shots in arms, getting more people protected and vaccinated is the best way out of this pandemic,” said Dr. Anderson.

On Tuesday, Johnson & Johnson told a federal subcommittee they would deliver enough to vaccinate more than 20 million Americans by the end of March.

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