Alabama will receive 40,100 doses of the Johnson and Johnson coronavirus vaccine.
The vaccine doses have not arrived to Alabama just yet, but will be delivered directly to providers across the state sometime this week or next week. The new allotment will allow some providers to finally administer coronavirus vaccines for the first time.
"We expect to supply providers who had previously not had vaccines," Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) said.
At this time, it's still unclear which providers will get the new Johnson and Johnson vaccine because ADPH does not provide names of entities until those entities have product in hand. The state also does not provide specific information regarding what vaccine a provider has. However, Dr. Landers says the goal is to expand access for those who are eligible.
"At this point, it's expected that providers will remain with the product that they ordered originally," Dr. Landers said.
That means people won't be able to pick and choose which vaccine they want when they go into a clinic.
Johnson and Johnson's vaccine has a lower efficacy rate compared to current vaccines being administered.
Overall, the newly authorized vaccine has a 60% efficacy rate. That's significantly lower compared to Moderna's and Pfizers's roughly 95% efficacy rates. The co-chair for Johnson and Johnson's coronavirus vaccine research says one main reason why there's such a big difference is because of virus variants.
"These studies were done in different times," Dr. Paul Goepfert says.
During the Moderna and Pfizer clinical trials, COVID-19 had not mutated into the variants Johnson and Johnson had to deal with.
"In the US, it showed the highest efficacy for symptomatic COVID infections, which was 72%. The lowest was in South Africa, which is 57%. But, that's the country that had the sort of infamous strain that is partly neutralization resistant against all the vaccines that are currently out there," Dr. Goepfert said.
The single shot could also be a reason behind the lower efficacy rate. However, Dr. Goepfert says when comparing the data dose per dose, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine works just as well as Moderna's and Pfizer's.
Right now, Johnson and Johnson is finishing up enrollment on another clinical study that's looking at the efficacy of the vaccine with two shots instead of one. Dr. Goepfert says if the rate is better, the company will likely recommend that booster shot, but for now, he asks people not to wait to get vaccinated.
"I mean, this vaccine along with Pfizer and Moderna is going to save thousands to hundreds of thousands of lives," Dr. Goepfert said.
Dr. Landers also urges people to just get the vaccine that's available to them.
"CDC does not have a preference for one vaccine over the other. All the vaccines are efficacious," Dr. Landers said. "Whichever entity you choose to be vaccinated from, you should take the product that entity is offering."
It's unclear when or if Alabama will receive any additional doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine in the future.