Just days after it was approved by the FDA, Minnesota has received its first batch of the new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
Gov. Tim Walz has confirmed that Minnesota will receive 45,200 doses of the vaccine this week, with Walz himself meeting one of the first shipments to arrive.
He says that doses will begin "shortly after doses arrive to Minnesota providers."
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is meant to be another game changer in the fight against COVID-19.
While it doesn't have as high efficacy at preventing COVID-19 infection as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines (66% on average compared to 94-95%), it is 85% effective at preventing severe COVID four weeks after it's administered.
What's more, it's also been shown to be 64% effective against the South Africa COVID-19 variant, whereas Moderna and Pfizer are investigating whether a booster shot is required to deal with this variant.
And crucially, the vaccine only requires a single dose compared to the two shots required by Pfizer and Moderna – making it more convenient for patients – and they store much better as well, keeping safely in a fridge for up to 3 months, making it logistically easier for vaccine providers.
It's for these reasons that Business Insider argued this week that the J&J shot is actually the best one yet in terms of reducing COVID's spread.
"This is an exciting development. We now have three vaccines available that are safe and highly effective in preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death,” said Governor Walz Wednesday.
"The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will help our state quickly provide immunity and get us one step closer to ending this pandemic. We know we need broad community protection before we can get back to the normal, enjoyable parts of life we have missed, and the way we get there is by getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible. Everyone who has the opportunity to get this shot should take it.”
After a slow start as it focused on healthcare workers and long-term care facilities, Walz says Minnesota now ranks 3rd among states for the percentage of doses received that have been administered.
Access to vaccines will be expanded to next priority groups – including some essential workers and people with certain chronic conditions – once the state has reached a level of 70% of over-65 Minnesotans receiving at least one vaccine shot.
As of Wednesday, 54% had received a shot.
If you're over 65 and need a shot, Thrifty White currently has more than 3,000 available. More here.
Thanks to the addition of J&J to the country's vaccine response, President Joe Biden said the U.S. should have enough vaccine doses for every American adult available by May, two months earlier than forecast.