The Newest Case of Vaccine Alarmism
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Good Morning. What should you think of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine? We explain.
It’s the latest case of vaccination alert.
Many Americans are concerned that Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine is an inferior product that may not be worth buying. North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum recently told the Washington Post that he now sees not just “vaccine hesitation” but “the potential for brand reluctance” as well.
Perception is based on the key efficacy rates of the three vaccines: 72 percent for Johnson & Johnson, compared to 94 percent for Moderna and 95 percent for Pfizer. However, these headlines can be misleading in many ways.
The most important measure – whether the vaccine prevents serious illness – shows that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is as effective as the other two. All of them work for almost 100 percent of the people. The picture is dim for mild cases, but they are not particularly worrying.
Today I want to unpack the statistics on the three vaccines and explain why current perception is a problem.
I will start with an anecdote that this newsletter already contained: Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, recently spoke to a few colleagues about what they would say to a family member who might choose between buying the Johnson & Johnson tomorrow and one of the other vaccines in three weeks.
“We all said,” Get the tomorrow, “as conductor told my colleague Denise Grady.” The virus is bad. “
Mild Covid means victory
The headline effectiveness numbers – like 72 percent – describe a vaccine’s ability to prevent all infections with this coronavirus known as SARS-Cov-2. However, preventing all infections is less important than it sounds. The world is not going to eliminate SARS-Cov-2 anytime soon. Coronaviruses are constantly circulating, causing colds and other manageable diseases.
The problem with this virus is its lethality. It killed 15 times as many Americans as the average flu season. Turning Covid into a mild flu or cold means defeating the pandemic.
All three vaccines used in the US achieve this goal. In the research studies, none of the people who received a vaccine died from Covid. And after the vaccines were fully effective, none were hospitalized.
In the real world, vaccines aren’t going to get quite as stellar results. Nevertheless, the results are excellent – and equally excellent in all three cases, as Dr. Cody Meissner of the Tufts School of Medicine said at a recent FDA meeting.
Like running into the wind
But why doesn’t Johnson & Johnson seem so good at preventing minor illnesses?
There are a few possible answers. For one thing, Johnson & Johnson’s research attempts seem to have had a greater degree of difficulty. They appeared later than with Moderna or Pfizer – after one of the virus variants had spread further. The variant appears to cause a greater number of mild Covid cases in vaccinated people than the original virus.
Second, Johnson & Johnson is currently only one shot, while Moderna and Pfizer are two shots. This was mainly due to the strength of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Initial tests showed that it provided impressive levels of immunity after just one shot, while the others needed a booster, as Dr. Robert Wachter, chairman of the medical department at the University of California at San Francisco, said.
The truth is that all vaccines seem to offer significant protection after a single shot. (Look at the UK, which is not rushing to fire second shots and where cases and deaths continue to drop.) Similarly, all three vaccines can benefit from a second shot.
I realize that some people may be scared of getting the only shot from Johnson & Johnson, but it shouldn’t. If more data suggests a second shot from Johnson & Johnson would help, regulators can change their recommendation. Regardless of this, subsequent Covid recordings may be normal in the future.
What’s the bottom line? A single shot from Johnson & Johnson can actually allow a slightly larger number of milder Covid cases than two shots from Moderna or Pfizer. It’s hard to be sure. And it’s not very important.
“The number we should all really care about is the likelihood that I’ll get this thing and really get sick or die,” said Wachter. After one of the three vaccines, he added, “There is essentially no chance you will die from Covid, which is staggering.”
One last thought
Like most Americans, I haven’t been vaccinated. If I look at the differences between the vaccines, I’ll confess that I had a responsible thought: Perhaps the excessive concern about Johnson & Johnson means that his shots will be begging – and I’ll be able to get one sooner.
If so, I will say yes without hesitation and feel relieved.
In the meantime, I would offer this advice to everyone in front of me: When it is your turn and you are offered the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, accept what is rightfully yours. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the equally good.
In Iowa yesterday: Governor Kim Reynolds and State Health Director Kelly Garcia received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine during a press conference. “I am very glad I received it,” said the governor, “and would encourage Iowans once more, if you have the opportunity, please take advantage of it.”
THE LATEST NEWS
A morning reading: The people of Carbon County, Wyo., Found steady jobs in coal mines. Soon the wind will pay the bills.
From the opinion: A pandemic baby boom? More like a baby bust.
Lived life: Japanese artist Toko Shinoda’s fluid, elegant work owed much to calligraphy, but she also complemented her old serenity with the influence of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. She died at the age of 107.
ART AND IDEAS
Re-evaluation of children’s literature
This week, the estate of Dr. Seuss, he would stop publishing six of his lesser-known books because they contained offensive images. The decision sparked a debate about how an author’s works should be changed, if at all, to reflect evolving attitudes.
The move is part of an effort by librarians and scholars to reevaluate children’s classics over the past few decades. Some libraries have withdrawn editions of illustrated series such as Tintin and Babar to portray non-white characters as savages. The Oompa Loompas in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” were originally dark-skinned pygmies from Africa until Roald Dahl revised his work in the 1970s in response to criticism from the NAACP
“Children’s publishers and literary estates try to take a delicate line by preserving an author’s legacy while recognizing and rejecting aspects of a writer’s work that are inconsistent with current social and cultural values,” said Alexandra Alter and Elizabeth A. Harris of The Times write. Read her story here.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to cook
Spicy chilli crisp compliments the soft tofu and vegetables in these dumplings.
Something to see
“25 Years of Rent: Measured in Love” is a virtual fundraising campaign, a tribute and a reminder that the musical remains inspiring in difficult times. You can see it until Saturday.
The pangram from yesterday’s Spelling Bee was a flagpole. Here is today’s puzzle – or you can play online.
Here’s today’s mini crossword and a clue: ways (five letters).
If you feel like playing more, all of our games can be found here.
Thank you for spending part of your morning with The Times. Until tomorrow. – David
PS When did you know the pandemic was going to change your life? The Times wants your story.
You can find today’s print homepage here.
Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about the state of the pandemic. On “Sway” Stacey Abrams discusses voting rights.