Health Beat: Single dose COVID-19 vaccine may be available next week

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Dr. Jeff Aeschlimann, infectious diseases pharmacist specialist at UConn Health and of the UConn School of Pharmacy, said the new vaccine could be available as soon as next week, following a similar timeline for shipping and distribution as the previous two COVID-19 vaccines. A student on campus receives a COVID-19 test-kit in the Student Union ballroom. Photos by Kevin Lindstrom / The Daily Campus.

The United States has a new weapon in the fight against COVID-19 as of Saturday, when the Food and Drug Administration  cleared a vaccine made by Johnson and Johnson that works with a single dosage instead of two, according to AP News.

The FDA said J and J’s vaccine offers strong protection against serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths related from COVID-19. In a huge study that spanned three continents, the single-dose vaccine showed to be up to 85% protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness, according to AP News. 

In a UConn Today interview, Dr. Jeff Aeschlimann, infectious diseases pharmacist specialist at UConn Health and of the UConn School of Pharmacy, said the new vaccine could be available as soon as next week, following a similar timeline for shipping and distribution as the previous two COVID-19 vaccines.

Aeschlimann warned that we need to be careful in directly comparing the effectiveness of the new single-dose vaccine to the other two available vaccines.  

“For starters, the vaccines were not compared to each other simultaneously in a randomized, controlled research trial format using the same definition for effectiveness — this is the best way to determine comparative effectiveness of any medical therapies,” Aeschlimann said in the interview. 

Aeschlimann said there are many factors that influence the protective effect of any COVID-19 vaccine, including the definition of when and how protection gets evaluated, how much of the virus is in communities at the time of the study and also by the variants of the virus  that are in the communities. 

Aeschlimann said it is important to consider these factors, because the new vaccine may be slightly less effective than the previous two vaccines in a direct comparison. 

Still, Aeschlimann thinks the addition of an effective single-dose vaccine will help increase the total number of people who are protected from being infected with COVID-19, and significantly limit the ability of the virus to spread through communities. 

“It’s undoubtedly another very important tool that we now have in our toolbox to help arrest the progression of the pandemic and gets our society moving back toward some degree of pre-COVID-19 normalcy,” Aeschlimann said. 

Aeschlimann said he is cautiously optimistic that with continued roll-out of vaccinations to people throughout Connecticut, there will continue to be a significant downward trend in the overall prevalence of COVID-19 infection throughout the state.  

“If, in Connecticut, we are able to get high percentages of vaccination throughout the age ranges under the aggressive timeline proposed by the Governor/CT DPH, I definitely envision us progressing to a point in late summer/early fall where we could realistically consider doing a significant roll-back of our current recommendations for high levels of social distancing, masking and other preventative measures,” Aeschlimann said. 

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