Maryland Could Begin Distributing Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine This Week Officials hope rollout of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine will help speed up the inoculation process after months of grappling with logistical issues.
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NPR logo Maryland Could Begin Distributing Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine This Week

Maryland Could Begin Distributing Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine This Week

Melissa Owens, operations plant manager for the McKesson Corporation, signs the first shipping box of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at the McKesson facility in Shepherdsville, Ky., Monday, March 1, 2021. Timothy D. Easley, Pool/AP Photo hide caption

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Timothy D. Easley, Pool/AP Photo

Maryland plans to begin distributing the single-shot coronavirus vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson this week, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday.

The federal government has allocated an initial 49,600 doses of the vaccine to the state. That entire amount will make its way to providers this week, pending approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control, according to the governor's office.

"The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe, effective, and made right here in Maryland," Hogan said in a statement. "Our plan is to get this vaccine into the community right away and right into arms so that we can continue increasing our vaccination rate."

The FDA voted to recommend emergency authorization of the single-dose vaccine late Saturday. Additional supply is expected to relieve some pressure on the clunky and overburdened vaccine distribution system currently underway in the state. The company says production of the vaccine will accelerate in the coming weeks, with 20 million doses expected to reach states by the end of March.

Virginia could receive 69,000 Johnson & Johnson doses this week, if authorized. D.C. has not yet announced how much it expects to receive or when.

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The Hogan administration warns that the next shipments of the vaccine may be significantly smaller. "This is only an initial allocation of the J&J vaccine from the federal government, which has shipped its entire inventory to jurisdictions," says a press release. The release added that future allocations of Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses could be uneven, according to the federal government, and may be "significantly smaller than this week's allocation."

Clinical trials conducted in multiple countries show the Johnson & Johnson shot is 67% effective at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 disease — and 77% effective against severe to critical illness — occurring at least two weeks after vaccination. The shot achieves full potency four weeks after it's injected.

A vaccine that's at least 50% effective "would have a significant impact on disease, both at the individual and societal level," according to the FDA.

"This certainly provides protection against what you care about, which is hospitalization, ICU admission and death. It's virtually 100% effective at doing that," Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the FDA's advisory panel, told NPR on Saturday.

Medical professionals have advised the public to receive whatever shot they have access to first. Pfizer's vaccine has shown efficacy figures of 95% in preventing COVID-19, while Moderna's have shown 94%. Both Pfizer and Moderna's vaccines require a second dose taken weeks after the initial injection.

"When the ship is sinking, we do not choose what color life raft," D.C. physician Dr. Lucy McBride told WJLA. "Even for unvaccinated people, the more vaccinated people in your orbit the safer you are because not only do the vaccines prevent against illness in yourself, they also are protecting against asymptomatic transmission."

Officials hope the rollout of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine could help speed up the vaccination process after months of grappling with logistical issues that have beleaguered their two-dose vaccine rollouts. J&J's is the first vaccine to show single-dose efficacy, and does not need to be kept frozen while it's being shipped (Moderna's and Pfizer's vaccines do). Experts say these advantages could be key in vaccinating a sweeping portion of the population, which is necessary to slow the spread of coronavirus.

More than 43,000 immunizations have been administered in Maryland as of Saturday, according to the Baltimore Sun. About 7.8% of Marylanders are now fully vaccinated, with 8.4% in Virginia and 9.4% in D.C.

This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.

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