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One-shot COVID vaccine likely in February: Operation Warp Speed leader

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Operation Warp Speed scientific director Dr. Moncef Slaoui said Wednesday that a single-shot COVID-19 vaccine may be just over a month away from US distribution.

Slaoui said the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson would be a “game-changer” in ending the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think it can be quite a game-changer. We’re hopeful that this vaccine, which is a one-shot vaccine, will have equivalent efficacy to those of Moderna and Pfizer,” Slaoui said via video stream at a press briefing.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, approved this month by the Food and Drug Administration, require two shots spaced weeks apart.

Slaoui, who shepherded the Trump administration’s successful vaccine development investments, said “we feel more and more confident that [a] readout of [Johnson & Johnson vaccine] efficacy will take place during the month of January, and very likely that an [emergency use authorization] submission will take place during the month of January.”

Slaoui said “hopefully an approval may be reached in the first half of the month of February” for the one-shot vaccine.

Dr. Moncef Slaoui
Dr. Moncef Slaoui
Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Pfizer was the first company to apply for vaccine approval on Nov. 20. The Food and Drug Administration didn’t hold a meeting until Dec. 10 to review data indicating roughly 95 percent effectiveness and approved the vaccine on Dec. 11.

Moderna’s vaccine was approved for distribution on Dec. 18.

Slaoui said Wednesday he does not expect the FDA to approve a vaccine candidate from AstraZeneca until April, citing the need for more data on elderly people — even though UK authorities approved the company’s vaccine Wednesday.

The UK also beat US regulators to approving the Pfizer vaccine on Dec. 2.

About 5.1 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines have been given to Americans, according to government data, equivalent to roughly 1 in 60 people.

Operation Warp Speed logistical director Gen. Gustave Perna said Wednesday that 14 million doses have been distributed to states — enough for roughly 1 in 20 Americans.

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