CDC advisory committee recommends Johnson & Johnson vaccine for people 18 and older

The CDC director has signed off, allowing doses to be shipped and administered.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice voted on Sunday to recommend the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for persons 18 years of age and older in the United States under the Food and Drug Administration's Emergency Use Authorization.

The interim recommendation passed with 12 in favor, one recusal and no opposition.

The recommendation was signed later Sunday by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, allowing doses to be administered.

The FDA announced the emergency authorization on Saturday.

"The authorization of this vaccine expands the availability of vaccines, the best medical prevention method for COVID-19, to help us in the fight against this pandemic, which has claimed over half a million lives in the United States," Janet Woodcock, acting FDA commissioner, said in a statement.

The green light by federal regulators was expected to trigger the shipment of 3.9 million doses as early as Monday, with some 800,000 of that expected to go directly to pharmacies.

Those numbers would grow weekly. And with shipments from other vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna, the expanded supply would eventually put the country on track to have enough vaccine on hand to immunize some 130 million adults by the end of March.

Like its competitors Pfizer and Moderna, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was considered highly effective at preventing serious illness. J&J found its vaccine was 85% effective at preventing severe illness and 100% effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths 28 days after individuals were vaccinated.

"We believe that people should take the vaccine that they are able to access," Woodcock said on a conference call following authorization on Saturday. "We feel all these vaccines meet our standards for effectiveness. They were not studied in head-to-head trials and so it's really very difficult to compare right now due to different differences in the development program."

The other good news is that J&J was tested in countries known to have potentially more dangerous variants, including Brazil and South Africa. The data found the vaccine worked against all variants at preventing severe disease.

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