Johnson & Johnson vaccine deemed safe and effective, paving way for approval

The FDA found Johnson & Johnson's one-dose coronavirus vaccine to be safe and effective, though slightly less effective than the Modern and Pfizer vaccines, which require two doses. Nikki Battiste reports.

Video Transcript

NORAH O'DONNELL: Good evening, and thank you for joining us. We are going to begin tonight with breaking news in another possible turning point in the year-long battle against the pandemic.

Tonight the FDA says the new single shot vaccine from Johnson and Johnson not only protects people from getting severely ill or dying from COVID-19, it may also help reduce the spread of the virus. The new analysis paves the way for the vaccine to be given emergency authorization by the end of this week.

And it means four million doses could ship out nationwide in days, giving the US another vaccine and one that's easier to store and administer.

Still, there are some concerns tonight. Production delays have forced the company to slash the number of doses it promised the government it would deliver by the end of next month, meaning it could still be months before many Americans have access to that new shot.

Well, tonight health officials are also warning about a new variant discovered in California, which appears to be spreading quickly there, even as there are more hopeful signs across the country showing new infections and hospitalizations from the virus have dropped 50% in the past month.

We have a lot of new reporting for you and your family tonight. Our team is standing by. CBS's Nikki Battiste is going to lead off our coverage tonight from outside of Johnson and Johnson's headquarters in New Jersey. Good evening, Nikki.

NIKKI BATTISTE: Good evening. The CDC says as of today, 20 million Americans are fully vaccinated. And if Johnson and Johnson's new vaccine is authorized, executives here at the headquarters say they could supply enough doses to double that number by the end of March.

"Safe and effective" is how the FDA described Johnson and Johnson's one-dose vaccine.

JEFF ZIENTS: If an EUA is issued, we anticipate allocating in three to four million doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccine next week.

NIKKI BATTISTE: The FDA confirms that J&J's vaccine is slightly less effective than the Moderna and Pfizer shots overall, but showed 85% efficacy against severe illness and complete protection against COVID-19 deaths 28 days after getting the shot. It also works better in the US than in South Africa, where a more contagious variant is dominant.

Johnson and Johnson's vaccine only needs to be kept at normal refrigeration temperatures and stored for three months.

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM: I think the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is a very important new development. It does show very, very good protection against serious illness, hospitalization, and deaths.

NIKKI BATTISTE: To keep down infections, the Biden administration is planning to ship 25 million masks to community health centers and food banks.

Also tonight, Moderna announcing it is preparing clinical trials for a South African variant booster shot.

Researchers in California say there's a homegrown variant there, too, which not only spreads quickly, but may show resistance to COVID antibodies.

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM: We are in a race against time.

NIKKI BATTISTE: Dr. Michael Osterholm says the US should rethink how it delivers vaccines to get needles into arms as quickly as possible.

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM: We have now compelling data showing that there is no need to provide two doses of vaccine to anyone who has already had COVID.

NIKKI BATTISTE: But there is good news. Lucia DeClerk was diagnosed with COVID last month on her 105th birthday, the same day she received her second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Now a survivor of both the Spanish flu and COVID, she credits a regimen of nine gin-soaked raisins and faith.

LUCIA DECLERCK: Pray, pray, pray. And don't eat junk food.

NIKKI BATTISTE: The FDA'S vaccine panel is scheduled to publicly review J&J's data on Friday, which means authorization could come as early as this weekend. If that happens, millions of doses could be headed to states next week. Norah?

NORAH O'DONNELL: 105-year-old saying gin but no junk food. Nikkie Battiste, thank you.