Recently approved for Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA, the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is now being distributed for administration in New York State.
Dr. Michael Pichichero, Director of the Rochester General Hospital Research Institute and an expert who has worked on vaccine development for over 30 years, provides important information on the newly approved vaccine.
The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is a one-dose injection into a muscle cell. Considered a replication-defective virus vector DNA vaccine, it works by injecting a replication of a defective virus (in this case the common cold) that cannot cause illness. The defective virus is packaged inside replication-defective DNA—which cannot replicate or become part of a person’s DNA – to deliver the virus to your body’s cells.
Once the replication-defective DNA is in the human muscle cell, it enters the nucleus of the muscle cell and the DNA blueprint works to create an mRNA blueprint.
From there, the mRNA leaves the nucleus and, similar to mRNA vaccines like the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines, the mRNA enters a ribosome in the cytoplasm of the muscle cell. Here, the mRNA blueprint is converted to a coronavirus spike protein.
Once the spike protein is created, it moves to the surface of the cell where it sparks an immune response, teaching your body how to recognize and fight COVID-19.
“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine cannot alter DNA. While the vaccine is made up of replication-defective DNA, it does not replicate and does not interact with your body’s DNA at all,” explains Dr. Pichichero.
The most common side effects are pain and redness at the site of injection, headache, chills, body aches, nausea, and a fever for one or two days. While many people don’t experience any side effects at all, don’t be alarmed if you experience them yourself.
“I don’t recommend taking pain killers, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, before receiving the COVID-19 vaccine,” says Dr. Pichichero. “However, taking them after is a safe way to reduce side effects like body aches or headache.”
At this time, there is not enough data to determine the long-term side effects of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Scientists have been studying vaccines similar to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and have no reason to believe it would cause any harmful long-term effects.
“The eventual product of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a protein, and scientists have been studying protein vaccines for over fifty years, with no indication of long-term effects.”
The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is 100% effective in preventing death from COVID-19. The vaccine is 85% effective in preventing severe disease from coronavirus infection and 72% effective in preventing-moderate-to-severe disease, similar to a bad cold.
“Although the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is less effective in preventing moderate-to-severe disease from COVID-19, it is still 100% effective in preventing death and severe disease that may cause hospitalization, being on a ventilator, and long-term after effects,” explains Dr. Pichichero. “Do not miss out on an opportunity to get the COVID-19 vaccine for any reason—all three approved vaccines are recommended.”
Unlike mRNA vaccines, the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine does not need to be stored in extremely low temperatures. Since it is not an mRNA vaccine, it is more stable and therefore easier to distribute and store.
Get the latest information on the vaccines available for COVID-19, including information on how the vaccines were created, who should get them and safety and side effects.Read the Latest
At a time where access to reliable information can directly impact health, Ebony Caldwell, EdD discusses the importance of equal access to education on the COVID-19 vaccines.
Teens aged 16 and older are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccines in New York State. Dr. Cynthia Christy answers common questions from parents & teenagers.
Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women during their reproductive years. Dr. Mohamad S. Mahmoud explains the signs, symptoms, and treatment of the disease.