'Pretty darn good protection': Local doctors hopeful about Johnson & Johnson vaccine candidate

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Two more vaccine candidates are on the horizon. Local doctors said emergency use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could come as soon as next month for Johnson & Johnson's vaccine candidate. AstraZeneca's is not far behind.

Dr. Brad Burmeister, a member of the Wisconsin Medical Society's COVID-19 task force, said this is welcome news.

"We're ready to go. We're ready to get shots in arms. It's just that supply that we need," he said.

New data shows Johnson & Johnson's vaccine is 85 percent effective at preventing severe cases of COVID-19. But the overall effective rate is lower.

"It's actually quite good compared to other vaccines that we have out there, but they're not quite as good as we see from Pfizer and Moderna. But we know that having some protection is better than no protection at all and actually in the grand scheme of things, these offer pretty darn good protection for people who might receive them," Burmeister said.

That message is echoed by Dr. William Hartman from UW Health.

"I think anybody who receives any of these vaccines is in a much better position than if you didn't get any of the vaccines," Hartman said.

Data shows Johnson & Johnson's vaccine candidate also provides protection against multiple strains of the virus, including the one recently discovered in South Africa.

Hartman said two of the advantages of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are that it only requires one dose, unlike Pfizer and Moderna's vaccines, and it can be stored in a normal fridge.

"We will not only be able to vaccinate more people because it'll be more widely accessible throughout the country because of the simple storage issues, but we're also going to be able to go faster because people only need to have the one shot," Hartman said.

Hartman is the principal investigator of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 trial in Madison. The European Union has now authorized AstraZeneca's vaccine for all adults in the EU.

"It puts things one step forward ... (but) doesn't necessarily speed up the timetable here in the United States," Hartman said.

He said the AstraZeneca trial has finished enrolling in the U.S. His Madison trial is still collecting data.

"We're following up on those participants on a weekly, sometimes two times a week basis to find out if they're doing OK, if they're having any side effects. Have they contracted COVID?," Hartman said. "We want to get all of this data put together, so that we can give as comprehensive a view to the FDA as to the both the safety and the efficacy of the vaccine."

He believes the AstraZeneca vaccine could receive FDA approval by April.

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