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New COVID-19 vaccines are on the way; what this means for getting the public vaccinated

Posted January 21, 2021 11:42 p.m. EST
Updated January 22, 2021 9:52 a.m. EST

— The Food and Drug Administration has issued Emergency Use Authorization for both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines. But behind the scenes, scientists are working toward the goal of adding more to that list – a critical need to amass enough shots for the country and the world.

That includes Johnson & Johnson, which is working on one that would only require one shot instead of two. Another may come from the Novavax Phase 3 trial, currently underway in Morrisville.

Novavax needed someone to bulk manufacture their vaccine, and that’s where FUJIFILM Diosynth in Research Triangle Park came into play. Aside from Johnson & Johnson and Novavax, AstraZeneca is another company hoping to bring its vaccines to the frontline.

UNC Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Cynthia Gay says it's pretty simple: the more, the merrier.

"We need as many safe and effective vaccines as we can get,” Gay said. “It’s exciting to have another two vaccines with the Johnson and AstraZeneca coming forth that you know. If both are safe and effective, I think will provide us with additional hope that we’re going to get to a better place.”

Former FDA employee Dr. Mark McClellan says that we won't know any definitive details on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for a little while.

“Scientists involved are going to take a very close look at the data and see if they can proceed to bringing that vaccine to market," McClellan said. "That could happen over the next few weeks, and that could be enough vaccine for another 100 million Americans by spring.”

Gay says some of these vaccines, if approved, will be easier to distribute, which would be good news for everyone.

“The AstraZeneca study started around the same time as the Johnson study, so I do think we can anticipate hearing something about results in the near future," Gay said. "I think that will be coming. The Novavax study just started enrolling in the end of December, and that study is 30 to 40% enrolled, and it’s going quite well.”

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