State health leaders urge Oklahomans to not be concerned about different types of vaccines

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Local doctors and epidemiologists are sending a message to Oklahomans: all three COVID-19 vaccines approved by the FDA are safe and effective.

This comes amid concerns that the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine may be less effective than the other two available.

“I don’t know that there’s a huge advantage to one or the other. I’m still encouraging people – if you get the opportunity to get a vaccine – get in line and get the vaccine,” said Dr. Dale Bratzler, Chief COVID-19 Officer at the University of Oklahoma.

Epidemiologists say people are getting too caught up in the efficacy rates of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines – as those rates came from controlled trials.

“So even when that number is ballooned and it’s around 90% or higher with the other two vaccines – that’s not to suggest how effective it’s going to be in the general population,” said Eddie Withers, an epidemiologist with the Oklahoma City-County Health Department. 

It’s hard to compare the three.

The Johnson & Johnson uses a different vector – converting DNA to RNA.

Additionally, J&J underwent an international study at a later date.

“So this was a time when some of those variants of concern were out there and so that may have impacted the efficacy a little bit,” said Dr. George Monks, President of the Oklahoma State Medical Association. 

“In the United States, where it was tested, was about 72% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infection,” Bratzler said. “However, it was 100% effective at preventing hospitalization and death.”

All experts – agreeing that all three vaccines seem effective in preventing those consequences – and remaining optimistic that we will have enough for every adult by the end of May – as stated by President Biden.

“I can tell you on the ground floor – I’m seeing it. I see the daily increase in our vaccines that are available to us and not to mention with J&J coming on board – I think it’s just a matter of time before it’s available to anyone who wants it,” Withers said. 

Bratzler says it’s possible that we may have a booster shot option for the J&J vaccine later on down the road.

He also says a fourth vaccine – Novavax – appears to be nearing FDA review.

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