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Gov. DeSantis looks to AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson vaccines to help expand access for Floridians

Here’s where each vaccine stands as the companies work toward emergency use authorization

DeSantis: Nearly 350,000 Florida seniors have received COVID-19 vaccine

Gov. Ron DeSantis is looking to the approval of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines by federal regulators to expand vaccination beyond Florida’s 65 and older population.

The governor talked about the two vaccines during a media briefing in Jupiter Tuesday.

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“I do think that as you get more, whether it’s AstraZeneca, whether it’s the Johnson and Johnson, and if you think about it from a workforce perspective if you’re doing employees, you don’t want to mess with the booster shot. You would just want a one-dose vaccine,” DeSantis said. “You don’t want to mess with the deep freeze. It’s much easier I think if you’re talking about a police department or school district or some of those things. And at this point, even if you were to get a Moderna like at the beginning of February, you’d still need to get that second shot later. We may be at the point whereas we get to the end of February, you have a Johnson & Johnson and you have some of these other things.

While the governor is pinning hopes on those two vaccine candidates to expand Florida’s vaccination program to the state’s workforce, there is no clear timetable for when they might be available.

In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he feels optimistic that the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines could be fully evaluated by the FDA soon. He added that regulators are “weeks away, not months away” from considering those vaccine candidates.

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DeSantis echoed Fauci’s optimism, at least for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“We anticipate that potentially getting an emergency use authorization sometime in February,” DeSantis said.

However, according to a recent report from Reuters, Operation Warp Speed chief adviser Dr. Moncef Slaoui said AstraZeneca’s vaccine may not see authorization until April.

Here is what is known for certain about each vaccine candidate:


AstraZeneca

The AstraZeneca vaccine has been shown to be 70.4% effective, according to preliminary data from Phase III trials.

However, vaccine experts have been critical of the company’s results, pointing to the company releasing information on the vaccine’s effectiveness without showing the data that led researchers to that conclusion.

FDA regulators said they are for data from US trials before considering the vaccine candidate for emergency use authorization.

AstraZeneca said its vaccine is cheaper to produce than Moderna’s or Pfizer’s vaccine. The company also said that it can be kept stable for six months at standard refrigerator temperatures.

This vaccine requires two doses. It has already been approved for use in the United Kingdom, Brazil and India.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the US is set to get at least 300 million doses of this vaccine when it becomes available.


Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson released data on its vaccine from early-stage trials showing that it generated an immune response in nearly all volunteers, with minimal side-effects, after a single dose.

According to that data, side effects included headache, body ache, and, more rarely, fever.

The vaccine is designed to be given as a single dose. The company is also testing a two-dose regimen in volunteers to see if adding a second dose gives better protection or longer-lasting protection.

The company released a statement to CNN saying, “The Company anticipates announcing topline Phase 3 data for its single-dose Janssen COVID-19 vaccine candidate in late January 2021.” That is when we could learn about how effective this vaccine is. The company would then seek emergency use authorization from the FDA.

Johnson & Johnson is contracted with the US government to supply 100 million doses of its vaccine.


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