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CATE CAUGUIRAN: Nearly 4 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are expected to be shipped across the country on Monday. This powerful new weapon in the pandemic is being called a game-changer, having been tested against new COVID-19 variants. Tonight, the country has a new weapon and third line of defense in combating the deadly COVID-19 virus after the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's vaccine.
PAUL OFFIT: It worked to keep you out of the hospital and to keep you out of the morgue. I think that's really important.
CATE CAUGUIRAN: Illinois governor J.B Pritzker tweeting his excitement tonight, writing, "The state stands ready to distribute and administer these lifesaving doses to our residents." In trials, Johnson & Johnson's vaccine has been 100% effective against hospitalization and death and 85% effective at preventing severe illness. Although its overall effectiveness is lower than Pfizer and Moderna, J&J's vaccine was tested and performed well against concerning variants.
Tonight, the FDA in a media call said the three vaccines were not studied in head-to-head trials. Dr. Zachary Rubin adding, comparing one against the other is not simple math.
ZACHARY RUBIN: Comparing those numbers, it's very challenging because the studies were done at different times during the pandemic, when we had more variants floating around during the studies for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. So to be able to compare one to the other is really apples and oranges.
CATE CAUGUIRAN: He says the more important issue, vaccine demand far outweighs supply.
ZACHARY RUBIN: It's a matter of just getting shots into people's arms, because the overall effectiveness of these vaccines continue to improve as more people get vaccinated. We're able to reach herd immunity much more quickly if we get vaccines into people's arms.
CATE CAUGUIRAN: This one-shot vaccine only requires refrigeration, allowing for easier shipping and storage.
ZACHARY RUBIN: We're finding that people are traveling several hours just to find a dose. And so we want to prevent that, especially for the elderly who want to get this as quickly as possible. They shouldn't have to drive three hours to find a dose.
CATE CAUGUIRAN: The next step, an independent advisory panel. The CDC will hold an emergency meeting tomorrow morning to review the vaccine data to make public health recommendations. From there, it heads to the CDC director for endorsement.