Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert and President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser, did not mince words when it came to the recently authorized Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
"This is a good vaccine," Dr. Fauci told ABC News' chief anchor George Stephanopoulos on "This Week," noting that people should "just be really grateful that we have three really efficacious vaccines."
Stephanopoulos noted that there is "a fair amount of skepticism" about the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, because of reports of its effectiveness compared to the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, but Dr. Fauci said that "we've got to get away from that chain of thought."
"The only way you really know the difference between vaccines is by comparing them head-to-head. We have three highly efficacious vaccines that are safe and efficacious," Dr. Fauci said. "That's the bottom line."
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' message was simple: Urging Americans to take whatever vaccine is available to them as soon as they can.
"All three of them are really quite good, and people should take the one that's most available to them," Dr. Fauci told NBC's "Meet the Press."
Dr. Fauci also told CNN Sunday that if he were not already vaccinated and was offered a choice of getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or waiting for another shot, he would not hesitate to take the J&J inoculation: "I would take whatever vaccine would be available to me as quickly as possible."
He echoed that message on "Meet the Press" Sunday: "If you go to a place and you have J&J, and that's the one that's available now, I would take it. I personally would do the same thing. I think people need to get vaccinated as quickly and as expeditiously as possible."
The Food and Drug Administration granted the vaccine Emergency Use Authorization for adults 18 and over on Saturday, just one day after a panel of experts unanimously recommended the vaccine be granted authorization.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is different from the two shots already being administered for a few reasons. The J&J vaccine requires one jab compared to Pfizer & Moderna’s two-dose regimen, and is 66% effective overall at preventing moderate to severe cases of coronavirus, according to findings released last month. The single-shot regimen is much more protective — 85% — against the most serious symptoms of the virus.
"The more vaccines that have high efficacy that we can get into play, the better," Dr. Fauci said prior to the authorization.
Two doses of the Pfizer and Moderna shots were found to be about 95% effective against symptomatic COVID-19, findings that led the FDA to pass down their respective EUAs.
And while those efficacy rates may seem startlingly different, it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison: A more recent study conducted in Israel found Pfizer’s vaccine was 92% effective at preventing severe disease after two shots and 62% after one.
When asked by CBS News if the vaccine is an "inferior vaccine," Dr. Fauci slammed that as inacurate: "No, it's not, you can't say that."
"We now have ... three highly efficacious vaccines,” Dr. Fauci said. “They are highly efficacious in many ways, including, importantly, preventing severe or critical disease.
"If you look at all three of them, they're relaly very good," he added. "The J&J data that just came out and that was just examined by the FDA – when you have advanced critical disease, there were no hospitalizations and no deaths. That’s good news."
J&J has another large study underway to see if a second dose of its vaccine works better, raising the prospect that countries could eventually add a booster if one turned out to be warranted.
The J&J vaccine is also easier to handle, lasting three months in the refrigerator compared to the Pfizer and Moderna options, which must be frozen. The shot uses a cold virus like a Trojan horse to carry the “spike” protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus into the body, where cells make harmless copies of the protein to prime the immune system in case the real virus comes along.
Only a few million doses will be shipped immediately after authorization, but production will ramp up in the coming weeks. By the end of March, Johnson & Johnson has said it can supply enough to vaccinate 20 million people – a much-needed boost to stretched supplies – and by June, the company expects to supply 100 million doses to the U.S.