Your questions answered on the latest CDC update and Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccine

With COVID-19 cases dropping in Arizona and vaccine distribution underway, hope continues to spread. Two national announcements have been made in the last two weeks that are getting us closer to living life in all the ways we have missed in the past year. 

On March 8, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for at least two weeks can safely gather indoors in small groups without masks, but they kept in place the recommendations against large events and travel. Note that in the case of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, full immunity occurs two weeks after the second shot, and, in the case of the Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine, full immunity occurs two weeks after the single shot. 

Although the vaccines have been extremely effective in preventing severe illness, it’s still not clear how (or if) people who have been vaccinated spread the virus. Health experts continue to advise that, outside of small fully vaccinated group gatherings, even fully vaccinated people should wear a mask and social distance when possible.

For mask-wearing tips, visit cdc.gov.

NEW vaccine available

A third coronavirus vaccine was OK'd for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is now in distribution. This vaccine was developed by Janssen Biotech, Inc., a Johnson & Johnson company, and was proven to be 85% effective in preventing severe illness and providing complete protection against COVID-19-related hospitalization and death.

Here are answers to a few questions you may have about this vaccine:

Q. How many shots are given?
A.
Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine requires only one shot.

Q. How long after getting the shot does it take to be effective?
A.
According to the CDC, it usually takes at least two weeks for immunity to develop. In the case of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, full immunity occurs two weeks after the second shot, and, in the case of the Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine, full immunity occurs two weeks after the single shot.

Q. How effective was the vaccine in clinical trials? 
A.
In the U.S. trials, the vaccine was at least 72% effective at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 disease 14 days post-vaccination. It was 78% effective in preventing severe COVID-19 disease 14 days post-vaccination and 85% effective after 28 days. There were only two hospitalizations within 14 days post-vaccination and no hospitalizations after 28 days. The trial found the vaccine to be 100% effective in preventing COVID-19-related deaths. The FDA's benchmark for approving a vaccine is an efficacy rate of 50%. It is not yet clear how long the vaccine will provide protection or whether it prevents someone from spreading the virus. So, it will be important for those who get the vaccine to continue taking other safety precautions.

Q. What was its safety record in clinical trials?
A.
No safety concerns were found for any specific groups. Overall, serious adverse events were rare and occurred in similar numbers among people who got the vaccine and those who got a placebo. Researchers looked at safety data broken down by: 

• Age
• Race
• Ethnicity
• Underlying medical conditions
• Previous COVID-19 infections

Q. What were the most common side effects?
A.
The most commonly reported side effects were:

• Pain at the injection site
• Headache
• Tiredness
• Muscle aches
• Nausea

These side effects were mostly mild to moderate and lasted one or two days.

Q. Who is the vaccine authorized for?
A.
The vaccine is authorized for people 18 or older. Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine has not yet conducted trials involving children, but those could start soon.

Q. Who can get the vaccine?
A.
Eligibility is based on age, profession, and location. You can visit the COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Checker on azdhs.gov to see if you are eligible.

Q. Who should not get the vaccine?
A. You should not get the vaccine if you have had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient of this vaccine. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk with your doctor about whether to be vaccinated.

Q. How does the vaccine work?
A.
Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine uses a viral vector to create immunity. That means it uses another, harmless virus as the vehicle to introduce a piece of DNA to your immune system. That delivery virus is a type that causes the common cold. But it has been modified so that it cannot reproduce in your body or make you sick. It just delivers the DNA package to some of your cells. Once there, that DNA instructs your cells to make the distinctive but harmless spike protein. This is the same protein that appears on the surface of the coronavirus. The cells then display the spike protein on their surface. These proteins trigger an immune reaction, and your body creates antibodies. These protect you from getting sick if you get infected with the real virus later. It's important to note that the vaccine doesn't contain the real coronavirus.

Getting the vaccine cannot give you COVID-19. And it can't change your own DNA in any way.

Q: When is it safe to stop wearing a mask after getting the vaccine?
A.
On March 8, the CDC stated that Americans who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for at least two weeks can safely gather indoors in small groups without masks, but it kept in place the recommendations against large events and travel. Health experts continue to advise that, outside of small fully vaccinated group gatherings, even fully vaccinated people should wear a mask and social distance when possible.


Last Updated: 03/16/2021

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