'This is a game changer': Wisconsin doctors expect FDA approval for Johnson & Johnson vaccine soon

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Local doctors are hopeful that Johnson & Johnson's one-dose vaccine will speed up Wisconsin's vaccine rollout and help the supply catch up with the extreme demand.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on Wednesday, Feb. 24, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine meets the requirements for emergency use.

Dr. William Hartman, principal investigator for UW Health's AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine trial, said he expects federal approval for the shot to come soon. 

"This is a game changer," Hartman said. "It's very inexpensive to produce, very easy to distribute and to store because all you need is a simple refrigerator to keep it stable."

The FDA said Wednesday the vaccine is about 66 percent effective at preventing moderate to severe cases of COVID-19 overall and even more effective in the U.S.

"The virus is trying to infect as many people as it can, and we are trying to vaccinate as many people as we can," said Dr. Sid Singh, enterprise chief quality and patient safety officer for Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Unlike Pfizer and Moderna, Johnson & Johnson's vaccine doesn't require ultra cold storage. Plus, it's one dose instead of two.

"So if you have 100 doses of Johnson & Johnson, you can vaccinate 100 people. If you have 100 doses of Pfizer, you can vaccinate 50," Singh said.

FD advisers will meet Friday to discuss the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

"If you compare it to Pfizer, Moderna, it will be overall slightly less efficacious, but if you look at in terms of severe disease and specifically hospitalization and death, it will be highly effective," said Dr. David Letzer, infectious disease specialist and chairman of the Wisconsin Medical Society's COVID-19 task force.

Letzer said he's focused less on the differences between the vaccines and more on the overall goal.

"Getting vaccinated is what matters, and if this was the vaccine that was available for me, I would be glad to take it," he said.

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