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Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine could be in Washington in a 'few weeks,' doctor says

The third vaccine in the fight against COVID-19 was given emergency authorization and approval by the FDA and CDC this weekend.

SEATTLE — A National Vaccine Advisory Committee member from Washington says the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine could be available in Washington in a few weeks.

“Now the catch is we're not going to see very much right away," said Dr. John Dunn, medical director for preventive care at Kaiser Permanente Washington. "It's actually going to take a while before we see large amounts of vaccine available in the United States in general and in Washington state in particular.”

The Food and Drug Administration gave the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine emergency authorization Saturday, clearing the way for a third vaccine to join the fight against coronavirus.

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department said in a blog post on Tuesday that Pierce County could receive doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine “as early as next week.”

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Dunn said the arrival of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in addition to Pfizer's and Moderna's is our strongest option yet to beat the pandemic.

“Everything else that we've come up with to this point that has to do with COVID-19 has been something that involves playing catch up,” he said.

The new Johnson & Johnson vaccine differs from the Pfizer and Moderna ones by only needing one dose instead of two, not as complex refrigeration and different technology.

“All three operate on the same basic principle: you get injected with a very small amount of protein that your immune system will then mount a response to," said Dunn. "That protein looks just like the protein that is on the surface of the actual COVID-19 coronavirus organism. And that means that if you ever get infected with that organism in the future, your immune system will recognize it immediately and can mount a good effective response to it."

Dunn said the vaccine’s easier transport needs will also be a benefit for rural communities.

“For populations that don't have the ability to come into a clinic, to a vaccine clinic, to get one of the other vaccines, this is something that we'll be able to take out to those places,” he said.

Dunn said Kaiser is discussing plans, including targeting rural communities and communities of color, which studies show lag behind in vaccinations.

“I imagine that we'll be targeting it that way," he said. "But all of those decisions really are going to be pending some concrete guidance from the state."