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Single-shot COVID-19 vaccine is popular at vaccination sites

The first week of distribution eased worries that people might turn it down

US-HEALTH-VIRUS-VACCINE Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

The messaging that all three authorized vaccines are good options appears to be sinking in around the country. When the first batch of single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines arrived in States this week, people were excited to take it.

In Connecticut, Hartford HealthCare let people decide which type of vaccine to sign up for, and the Johnson & Johnson shot was more popular than expected. People were also given the choice at a Miami vaccination site. One recipient told CNN that she picked Johnson & Johnson because it’s one dose; she’s afraid of needles and only wanted to do it once. A Minnesota couple told KTTC-TV that they were eager to get a vaccine that was only one dose.

That’s a big relief for experts who worried that the shot faced a communications problem. Even though the vaccine was just as good as the other two authorized vaccines at keeping people out of the hospital and alive, overall, its ability to prevent disease wasn’t quite as strong during the trials testing it. They thought there might be the (mostly unfounded) perception that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine wasn’t a good option.

“We have a vaccine now that has good efficacy that everyone is going to compare to the existing vaccines, and say it doesn’t look quite as good,” said Eric Rubin, a professor of immunology, during a meeting of the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory committee last week. Experts stressed that people should take whichever vaccine they’re offered first.

But despite those early concerns, people around the country seem eager to line up for the Johnson & Johnson shot. In addition to only requiring one dose — so people don’t have to take the time for two appointments — it can have fewer side effects than the gene-based Moderna and Pfizer / BioNTech products.

It’s hard to directly compare the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the other vaccines. They were tested at different times and in different locations. The gene-based vaccines were tested before coronavirus variants that could make vaccines less effective were widespread. But all three vaccines are similar in one important way: they’re overwhelmingly effective at keeping people from developing severe cases of COVID-19 and out of the hospital. They’re also all more effective than the flu shot.

The single-dose formulation is also more convenient. “It’s a hassle having to take time off work,” Salome Ruperty told Spectrum News NY1 while lined up at a Johnson & Johnson vaccine site in New York City.

Some people may still turn down the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and seek out either the Moderna or Pfizer / BioNTech shots. But the early reports make it seem less likely that the doses will go unused.

Just under 4 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were distributed to States this week. The company says it will have 20 million doses ready by the end of March and 100 million by June.