The nation’s leading infectious disease expert has urged Americans to take whatever vaccine is immediately available to them, following this weekend’s approval of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose jab as a third option in the fight against Covid-19.
Anthony Fauci said on Sunday he “would have no hesitancy whatsoever” in taking the vaccine that was authorized for emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Saturday evening.
“The good news, it’s a single shot,” Fauci told NBC’s Meet the Press. The J&J vaccine also can be kept at normal refrigerator temperatures, instead of needing deep cooling like the already-approved Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Johnson & Johnson efficacy rates appear lower than the other two, however top experts are telling the public not to worry.
“You can understand that type of a concern, but in order to really compare vaccines, you have to compare them head to head. And these were not compared head to head,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the White House coronavirus adviser, told CNN’s State of the Union.
He further talked up the vaccine to NBC.
“If you look at the efficacy against severe disease greater than 85%, there have been no hospitalization or deaths in multiple countries, even in countries that have the variants,” he said.
“All three of them are really quite good, and people should take the one that’s most available to them. People need to get vaccinated as quickly and as expeditiously as possible, and if I would go to a place where they had J&J, I would have no hesitancy whatsoever to take it.”
Fauci also echoed earlier warnings from Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that it was too soon to be relaxing coronavirus restrictions. Several states have eased mask rules and are reopening some businesses, and rates of new infections and mortality have plateaued after recent drops.
“Once you start pulling back, the thing you don’t want is to have a plateauing at a level that’s so high that, inevitably, things are going to go back up,” he told NBC.
“Our baseline of daily infections now, even though it’s way down from where it was 300,000-plus per day, is down to around 70,000. That baseline’s too high. So it’s really too premature right now to be pulling back too much.”
He also responded to growing calls for schools to reopen, cautioning it could be “earliest the end of the year and very likely the first quarter of 2022” before elementary school-age children could be vaccinated. High schoolers, he said, could start receiving shots in the fall.