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KUNC is among the founding partners of the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration of public media stations that serve the Western states of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

A Good Shot: Scientist Stresses J&J Vaccine's Efficacy In Preventing Severe COVID-19

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Health officials hope the newly approved Johnson and Johnson vaccine will accelerate progress in vaccinating rural and homebound residents in the Mountain West. But there’s some unnecessary confusion over the shot’s efficacy.

The one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine is easier to store and has a longer shelf life than the Pfizer and Moderna shots. Dr. Richard Zane, chair of emergency medicine at University of Colorado, told the Mountain West News Bureau in February that the “less logistically cumbersome” vaccine would make it easier for vaccinators to take the shot right to people’s homes.

But the vaccine has drawn some hesitancy from the public due to its lower efficacy rate in preventing moderate cases of COVID-19.

Rupali Limaye, a scientist with Johns Hopkins University and expert on vaccine behavior and decision-making, says that’s the wrong focus.

“We need to think about efficacy related to prevention of severe COVID – severe COVID is what is going to lead to hospitalization and death,” she said.

Limaye says all three vaccines are roughly equal in preventing severe illness and death. She says you can think of it in terms of the flu shot, which last year had just a 39% efficacy rate.

“Let's say you still get the flu. The great thing about the flu shot, though, is that generally it reduces your severity and it reduces your duration. It's not going to lead to severe flu,” she said.

Meanwhile, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci strongly endorsed the Johnson and Johnson shot after its FDA approval on February 27.

“All three of them are really quite good, and people should take the one that’s most available to them,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“If you go to a place and you have J and J, and that’s the one that’s available now, I would take it,” he added.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

I wear many hats in KUNC's newsroom as an executive producer, editor and reporter. My work focuses on inequality, the systems of power that entrench it, and the people who are disproportionately affected. I help reporters in my newsroom to also uncover these angles and elevate unheard voices in the process.