- After last month’s pause of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine, polls show some increased hesitancy about getting the inoculation.
- However, experts say the J&J vaccine is appealing to a segment of the population because it requires only one shot.
- They add that some people in rural areas with limited time off work and fewer healthcare options also favor the J&J vaccine.
The COVID-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals has been administered to far fewer people than those produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
But despite concerns about the blood clotting side effect that has occurred in a small number of people, the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine has its fans — particularly because it requires only a single dose, unlike the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
So far, about 54 million people in the United States have received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and about 44 million have received the Moderna shot, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
By contrast, fewer than 9 million Americans have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Part of the reason was that the J&J vaccine was the last to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine also suffered a setback in April 2021 when the CDC put a 1-week hold on the vaccine after a few recipients developed a rare form of blood clot.
After conducting further testing on the J&J vaccine, the CDC reauthorized it for use.
In a Washington Post/ABC News poll released April 26 — and conducted while the pause was in effect — 22 percent of Americans said they would be willing to get the J&J vaccine, with less than half believing that the shot was safe or very safe.
In a CNBC poll, the percentage of people who said the J&J vaccine would be their top choice fell from 29 percent before the pause to 17 percent after the vaccine was reinstated.
A pause, then a rebound
Monica Mizell, vice president and chief nursing officer of Community Health of South Florida Inc., told Healthline that “confidence in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine went down really fast” during the pause, “but since the pause was lifted, we’re still seeing interest in J&J.”
Mizell said outreach programs targeting homeless and migrant populations in Florida continue to offer the J&J vaccine first “because we may not find these people again.”
However, those who prefer not to receive the J&J vaccine can still get the Moderna shot.
“We have both available,” said Mizell.
Likewise, Bergen New Bridge Medical Center in New Jersey now offers a choice of the Moderna or J&J vaccines to the 1,500 or so people a day who show up at its Parsippany vaccination site.
Deborah Visconi, president and CEO of Bergen New Bridge, told Healthline that the J&J vaccine remains popular among several population groups due to its “one-and-done” administration, including younger people, workers, and people planning to travel.
“It’s still a viable alternative that people are looking for,” she said.
Visconi said that many people still see the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as the “gold standard,” in part because the reported efficacy of these two mRNA vaccines is higher than that for the adenovirus-based J&J shot.
However, she said, “people have seen the data showing that those who get the J&J shot avoid serious disease and hospitalization and are understanding that.”
People in rural areas also seem to be more receptive to the J&J vaccine, said Jason Rose, chief executive of AdhereHealth, which provides vaccinations to underserved populations in Tennessee and North Carolina.
”Even after the pause, Johnson & Johnson still appears to be the preferred shot,” Rose told Healthline. “Some people have told us they prefer J&J because they are afraid of needles. Maybe someone can manage one shot, but fear prevents them from signing up to get stuck in the arm twice.
“For teachers, farmers, restaurant staff, and construction workers, the issue is more they don’t have the time or flexibility to take the time off from work for two appointments,” Rose said. “They also worry they may have side effects that will force them to take additional sick days that they can’t afford to take.
“J&J is simply viewed as the most appealing, less time-consuming option for certain populations, particularly people with transportation barriers or work and family obligations,” Rose added. “In fact, the week of the pause, we tried to reschedule appointments with people who originally signed up to receive J&J, but instead offered the Moderna and Pfizer shots. Many people refused the alternatives, telling us they would rather wait until we resume with J&J.”