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Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine predicted to get the green light by end of February

Johnson & Johnson applied for Emergency Use Authorization with the Food and Drug Administration on Feb. 4.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Experts predict the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine will start going into arms by the beginning of March.

The manufacturer applied for Emergency Use Authorization with the Food and Drug Administration on Feb. 4.

Dr. Michael Koren, CEO at Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research, said the FDA is scheduled to do its formal review of the vaccine trial data with its advisors on Feb. 26.

“So, once the FDA gives its emergency authorization, and we expect that to happen with like 90 to 95% certainty," Dr. Koren explained. "Then, the vaccine will be available for people within the week.”

He said this five to six-week process is normal and is how long it took for the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to get the green light for Emergency Use Authorization.

While Johnson & Johnson is ready to be the third available COVID-19 vaccine in the United States, Pfizer and Moderna are now collecting data for FDA drug approval of their doses.

The difference is only the the government can distribute a vaccine with emergency authorization.

“A fully approved product can be sold directly from the manufacturer to healthcare entities," Dr. Koren said.

Koren explained the FDA asked for six months of information before those direct relationships will be allowed.

According to Koren, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be easier to distribute and maintain because it is one dose that only requires normal refrigeration temperatures for storage.

He said a third vaccine in distribution will aid in the current turning point toward herd immunity that Koren’s seeing in Florida, as millions have already been vaccinated or infected.

“If you look at the data, we're in the third wave of COVID-19. And we're down tremendously from the peak of about three or four weeks ago," Koren explained. “So, you're seeing that a good percentage of the population is already immune. It's still probably less than 50%, but I'm going to guess maybe 40%.”

Despite the good news, he said it is still as important as ever to mask up and stay six feet apart from others.