Infectious disease specialist: ‘Get the first vaccine available to you’ as FDA reviewing new one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine

As emergency-use FDA approval for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could come as early as this weekend, infectious disease specialist Dan Diekema is urging the university community to not wait for a certain brand of vaccine.


Jenna Galligan

The Old Capitol is seen on Thursday, March 12, 2020.

Sarah Watson, Executive Editor

A disease infections specialist at the University of Iowa is recommending people not “game out” different vaccines by bypassing an opportunity to receive a vaccine in favor of a different brand.

Dan Diekema, the director of the division of infectious diseases at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, said in a video that Iowans should “get the first [vaccine] that’s available to you.” The video comes as a Food and Drug Administration panel is reviewing a new one-shot vaccine from Johnson & Johnson. The vaccine in clinical trials was 66 percent effective at preventing cases of COVID-19, but was shown to prevent almost all COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.

Johnson & Johnson would be the third vaccine to receive emergency-use approval in the U.S., and epidemiologists say this one-dose vaccine could quicken the vaccination efforts in the U.S. COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna received emergency approval in December. Both of those sit at about 95 percent efficacy.

“You should get the first one that’s available to you,” Diekema said. “And there are several good reasons for that. Probably the best reason is that all of the vaccines that have currently completed large clinical trials are almost, are basically 100 percent effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death due to COVID-19.”

Getting the vaccine also aids the community’s reducing of COVID-19 spread since there will be fewer people for the virus to transmit to, Diekema said. Waiting for a “popular” vaccine will put people at higher risk of contracting or transmitting the virus.

“It’s really best to just as soon as your turn comes up, line up, bare your arm, and get that vaccine,” Diekema said. “The benefit is the faster we get the largest proportion of the community vaccinated, the fewer opportunities this virus has to spread from person to person.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Thursday launched a one-stop-shop website for vaccination information. Projections released Thursday predicted that all of Iowa would be eligible for a vaccine by early April.

The Center of Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that Iowa has distributed 622,000 vaccines to eligible Iowans and that 19 percent of the population have received one dose.

University of Iowa’s new case counts, which are reported every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday have continued to be in the single digits. On Friday, the university reported 7 new self-reported COVID-19 cases among students and 2 new self-reported COVID-19 cases among employees.

Campaign to Organize Graduate Students, or COGS, has renewed calls to the university during their contract negotiations with the state Board of Regents to release more comprehensive breakdowns of the COVID-19 numbers to evaluate the impact the virus has had on graduate student workers, whom COGS leaders say are more likely to be teaching face-to-face classes. The university has maintained that it is following legal advice from the general counsel’s office that separating the categories further could lead to violating health privacy laws, as people could deduce identities of the positive cases.

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