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Less may be more when it comes to rolling out a coronavirus vaccine.
Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine could have an edge over Pfizer and Moderna’s shots– even though it’s still several weeks away from approval in the US, Wall Street analysts told The Post.
That’s because the single jabs will likely be easier to distribute across the country than its rivals’ two-dose regimens that are slowly going into Americans’ arms.
“They are not that late, considering the fact that they are shooting for a one-dose vaccine, which is definitely going be way more convenient,” CFRA Research analyst Sel Hardy told The Post. “They have clear advantages in terms of logistics.”
J&J expects to release data from its large-scale vaccine study in late January and ask the feds to clear the shot for emergency use soon thereafter. That would put it roughly two months behind Pfizer and Moderna, which won emergency approvals in mid-December.
J&J is also studying a two-dose regimen, but just one dose generated an immune response in more than 90 percent of the participants in an early clinical trial.
That means each dose the New Jersey-based company produces could inoculate one person, potentially doubling its impact compared to the Pfizer and Moderna jabs, according to Jeylan Mammadova of Third Bridge.
“If I am saying that I have the capacity to produce a billion doses … that’s a billion people that you’re vaccinating” with a one-shot vaccine, said Mammadova, the investment-research firm’s global team lead for health care. “If I make the same statement with Moderna and with Pfizer, that’s only half.”
There’s another key difference — J&J’s shot provokes an immune response in the body by delivering a gene for the coronavirus “spike” proteins through a common-cold virus that can’t make the recipient sick. That’s a different method from the so-called messenger RNA found in the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
The J&J technology already has a strong track record — it was used to develop the company’s Ebola vaccine that European Union regulators approved last July. That could help reassure people who are skeptical of the brand-new COVID-19 shots, according to analysts.
“Although they are late, some people might think, ‘OK, they are using a traditional vaccine platform,’” Hardy said. “There could also be a confidence issue, a perception issue, I would say, that could play to their advantage.”
What’s more, J&J’s vaccine is expected to have a longer shelf life than Moderna’s and doesn’t require ultra-cold storage like Pfizer’s, which has to be kept at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit to be effective.
J&J estimates its vaccine will stay stable for at least three months at standard refrigerator temperatures and for two years in a freezer at minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit. Moderna’s, on the other hand, can last up to just 30 days in the fridge and up to six months when frozen.
Despite these apparent advantages, analysts don’t expect the vaccine to have a big impact on J&J’s bottom line. The firm has said it plans to make the shot available on a “not-for-profit basis for emergency pandemic use,” and it got about $454 million in research and development funding from the US government.
J&J will also eventually have to go head-to-head with other single-dose COVID vaccines from companies such as Merck, which is farther behind in development.
“I don’t think financially it makes any difference to [J&J] even if it’s a fantastic win,” Sam Fazeli, senior pharmaceuticals analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence, told The Post. “The question is whether this is something they’re going to be able to monetize beyond the pandemic.”
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