On Saturday, the U.S. government authorized a third coronavirus vaccine for emergency use, this one from Johnson & Johnson. Notably, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires shipping and storage temperatures of that of a standard refrigerator, making it more accessible than the other two. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine also only requires one shot instead of two. But, the big question for Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist: Is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as good? Put another way: Which one should I try and get when I’m eligible? And, speaking of eligibility, when are kids likely to get vaccinated?
Fauci answered all of those questions—to the best of his ability, as even he cannot predict the future—across a handful of shows this Sunday morning. First, let’s look at what Fauci has to say about the efficacy of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and whether or not he would take it himself. Then we can dig into reopenings and when kids may get vaccinated.
First, in responding to concerns that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine doesn’t have quite as high efficacy rates as Pfizer and Moderna, which are at about 95% efficacy, while appearing on NBC, Fauci stressed that “there have been no hospitalization or deaths in multiple countries, even in countries that have the variants” related to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. He also said the vaccine’s efficacy against severe disease is greater than 85%. The biggest takeaway? That it’s not quite fair to compare the vaccine options in such simplistic terms, as according to Fauci, they need to be compared “head-to-head.”
And if he wasn’t already vaccinated? Fauci made it clear he would take the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. On CNN, Fauci told host Dana Bash on State of the Union, that he“would take whatever vaccine would be available to me as quickly as possible for the simple reason of what I said a moment ago… We want to get as many people vaccinated as quickly and expeditiously as possible.” Fauci himself has already received the Moderna vaccine.
In terms of reopening states (or, to be blunt, the number of places that have barely closed at all), Fauci said our “baseline” of infections is still far too high. On Meet the Press, Fauci told host Chuck Todd the baseline of daily infections is down to around 70,000 from a high of 300,000. Even with the drop, however, he said, “That baseline’s too high. So it’s really too premature right now to be pulling back too much.”
When asked about specific examples by Bash over at State of the Union, Fauci replied similarly. Bash stated as an example, “New York is opening movie theaters, Massachusetts and North Carolina are relaxing capacity restrictions on indoor dining. Is that premature?”
Fauci advised us to simply look at history. He stressed that this “isn’t hypothetical data, because just look historically at the late winter, early spring of 2020 of the summer of 2020, when we started to pull back prematurely… We saw the rebounds.” He described potentially reopening too early as “really risky.”
In speaking to Todd, Fauci broke down some predictions on when we can expect people under 18 to be eligible for the vaccine. According to Fauci, there are currently studies in progress to figure out the safety and efficacy of vaccines on minors. With that in mind, he suggested that “If you project realistically when we’ll get enough data to be able to say that elementary school children will be able to be vaccinated, I would think that would be at the earliest the end of the year… And very likely the first quarter of 2022.”
For older minors, like high schoolers, however, the date could be a little sooner. According to Fauci, “it looks like sometime this fall.” He noted it’s too soon to say whether it would be the first-day school opens, but he thinks it could be “pretty close to that.”
You can watch Fauci’s Face the Nation interview here.
And his This Week interview here.