Three more vaccines are on the way that can expand access and alleviate storage difficulties, according to a presentation during Healthier Oklahoma Coalition’s virtual news conference.
Dr. Ashley Weedn, a pediatrician with OU Health, recently offered a synopsis of three vaccines working their way toward Emergency Use Authorizations that will add to the two already in circulation after being granted that approval by the FDA.
Weedn noted that the current Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are “very effective,” but there is limited availability and, in the case of Pfizer, logistical challenges presented by ultra-cold storage needs. Of the three vaccines next in line for approval evaluation, she said Johnson & Johnson is closest.
Johnson & Johnson submitted its single-dose vaccine on Feb. 4 for EUA consideration. Weedn said the FDA is expected to meet Feb. 26 to review clinical trial data for efficacy.
Weedn said Johnson & Johnson has reported its vaccine is 72% effective with a single shot and can remain stable for two years at -4 degrees Fahrenheit and at least three months at standard refrigerator temperatures of 35 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit.
“So it makes it easier to transport and use in rural areas, as well as our smaller clinics. It’s really important for that,” Weedn said. “If approved in the U.S., we could receive 100 million doses of the vaccine in the first half of 2021, with the initial distribution beginning in March.”
While Pfizer and Moderna use mRNA technology, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses an adenovirus — a type that causes the common cold. She said the virus’ DNA has been edited to prevent it from replicating or causing infection and inserted with a gene that has the codes for the coronavirus spike protein that the immune system learns to recognize to protect against a COVID-19 infection.
“Johnson & Johnson also is conducing phase three trials on the effectiveness of adding a second dose,” Weedn said, “and those findings should be released in the spring.”
The Healthier Oklahoma Coalition is comprised of leading health care groups across the state, including the Oklahoma State Medical Association, Oklahoma Hospital Association, Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians and Oklahoma Nurses Association.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is nearing completion of its phase three clinical trials, Weedn said, and has shown 82% effectiveness outside of the U.S. with two doses three months apart.
She said it also uses edited adenovirus DNA. The vaccine can be stored for up to six months in refrigerator temperatures of 38 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine has already received EUA in the U.K. — you probably heard about that — as well as other countries,” Weedn said. “And while it’s not approved in the U.S. at this time, AstraZeneca said the results of the U.S. clinical trials are expected in the next four to six weeks.
“The U.S. has ordered 300 million doses pending FDA approval.”
Weedn added that the Oxford-AstraZenca hasn’t been as effective preventing infections from some of the variants, notably the South Africa B.1.351 variant. However, she said, the infections that did occur were milder than those who weren’t vaccinated.
The third vaccine Weedn highlighted was developed by Novavax, a Maryland-based company. She said it is given as two doses three weeks apart, with an 89% effectiveness in clinical trials in Britain.
“So this vaccine uses a different platform than any I’ve discussed today,” Weedn said. “It uses a synthetic coronavirus spike protein to teach the immune system to produce antibodies to prevent future infection.”
Weedn said phase three trials began in December in the U.S., with Novavax hoping to deliver its results by April. The company, if an EUA is approved, hopes to supply 110 million doses to the U.S. by June, she said.
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