A health care worker fills a syringe from a vial with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine against the COVID-19 coronavirus as South Africa proceeds with its inoculation campaign at the Klerksdorp Hospital on February 18.
A health care worker fills a syringe from a vial with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine against the COVID-19 coronavirus as South Africa proceeds with its inoculation campaign at the Klerksdorp Hospital on February 18. Phill Magakoe/AFP/Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine “checks nearly all the boxes” on a list of what’s needed in a coronavirus vaccine, Dr. Greg Poland, head of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group, said Friday.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe and effective, and has the advantage of being a single-dose vaccine that has no special storage requirements, Poland told a meeting of vaccine advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration.

“We need a vaccine that can be quickly mass produced,” Poland said. “We’d want to see a reasonable duration of efficacy and protection. 

“The Janssen vaccine candidate checks nearly all the boxes.” 

The FDA’s Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) is meeting to discuss the vaccine and will vote later Friday on whether to recommend FDA emergency use authorization. The FDA almost always follows the committee’s recommendations.

“There are only three ways the pandemic can be controlled,” Poland told the committee. “First is a hard lockdown,” with universal masking and social distancing, he said. “Second, the virus mutates to be less transmissible,” he added – but noted that more transmissible variants are already emerging and spreading.

Third is vaccination. “Vaccines are our primary weapons in countering and controlling this threat,” Poland said.

He noted the vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen division was studied in multiple countries when the virus was spreading fast – and when new variants were circulating.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which, if authorized, would be the third to be OK’d for the US, provided 85% protection against severe disease and the need for hospitalized in advanced, Phase 3 clinical trials.