COVID-19 Vaccine Information

VACCINE SMARTS 


Vaccine Smarts is written by Sealy Institute for Vaccine Sciences faculty members Drs. Megan Berman, an associate professor of internal medicine, and Richard Rupp, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical Branch.


Here are 3 reasons to be excited about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

The medical community is ecstatic about the Food and Drug Administration approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the third vaccine to be used for the prevention of COVID-19.

While COVID-19 infections and deaths are still occurring at an alarmingly high rate in the United States, we’re finally seeing a downtrend in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Measures such as masking, physical distancing and vaccination are making an impact.

The introduction of a third vaccine will help continue that impact.

THE VACCINE PLATFORM

The J&J vaccine is a more commonly used vaccine platform. This may help alleviate concerns of those with hesitancy over accepting newer messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. It uses a harmless adenovirus, or cold virus, engineered to carry the genetic code for SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which instructs the body to produce an immune response.

This type of vaccine model also is used for the Ebola vaccine and has been found safe and well tolerated in more than 200,000 people in other vaccine studies.

NEW VARIANTS

For a COVID-19 vaccine to be approved by the FDA, it must show at least 50 percent effectiveness. Pfizer and Moderna, the companies who produced the mRNA vaccines, have shown an amazing degree of efficacy — 95 percent and 94 percent, respectively. The J&J vaccine is 66 percent effective overall. Although the efficacy is less than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, comparing them head-to-head is like comparing apples and oranges. The various vaccine studies were performed in different parts of the world and during different time periods. The mRNA vaccines also were tested prior to the emergence of newly circulating variants.

The J&J vaccine studied 44,000 people in the United States, South America and South Africa. One of the concerning new variants is in South Africa, where it composes 95 percent of circulating virus. Even with this variant, the J&J vaccine showed 57 percent effectiveness in South Africa against milder disease.

In the United States, where the variants aren’t prevalent, the vaccine is 72 percent effective. Additionally, across all three countries, the vaccine was 85 percent effective in preventing severe COVID-19 and 100 percent protective in preventing hospitalizations and death.

ONE AND DONE

J&J is the only vaccine authorized as a single dose. We know people who’ve driven hours to receive their vaccine. Some other people who received their first vaccine also may have difficulty scheduling their second dose.

This vaccine also can be kept in a refrigerator. It doesn’t need to be frozen for stability and is therefore easier to store and transport. More places can carry it like doctor’s offices and pharmacies. This allows us to vaccinate vulnerable populations, like those with limited access to health care and people in rural areas, ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to be vaccinated regardless of their race, ethnicity, income level or insurance status. This translates to more doses into more arms and a step closer to herd immunity.

All three vaccines approved for emergency use prevent the worse outcomes of infection. All three are 100 percent effective in preventing hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Any one of the three vaccines is the best one to receive if it’s available to you.

Vaccine Smarts is written by Sealy Institute for Vaccine Sciences faculty members Drs. Megan Berman, an associate professor of internal medicine, and Richard Rupp, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical Branch. For questions about vaccines, email vaccine.smarts@utmb.edu.

COVID-19 General FAQs

FAQs

  • What is COVID-19

    Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). The novel coronavirus, now known as Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

    While COVID-19 causes only mild illness in some infected individuals, it may cause serious lower respiratory infection leading to hospitalization and even death.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers this factsheet highlighting important information you should know about Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-10).

    Last modified on 3/16/2020

  • How do I help prevent the spread of COVID-19 if I am sick?
    • Stay home unless you need medical care
    • Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home
    • Call ahead before visiting a clinic
    • Wear a mask
    • Cover your coughs and sneezes
    • Clean your hands often
    • Avoid sharing personal household items
    • Clean all “high touch” surfaces every day
    • Monitor your symptoms

    Last modified on 3/10/2020

  • Can I get tested for the coronavirus? What’s the process?

    Patients with symptoms of respiratory illness, including cough, fever or shortness of breath, can schedule online or contact the UTMB Health Access Center at (800) 917-8906 to speak with our 24/7 nurse hotline.


    • Patients should follow recommendations for testing, self-isolation and management of symptoms.
    • Any patient experiencing a worsening of symptoms—particularly shortness of breath—a few days after first becoming ill should contact the Access Center IMMEDIATELY. To keep our patients and employees safe, UTMB tests our patients for COVID-19 in advance of any procedure or hospital admission.
    • To keep our patients and employees safe, UTMB tests our patients for COVID-19 in advance of any procedure or hospital admission.
    • You may also wish to check with your local county health officials for testing available through local government. In Galveston County, Health District testing information is online.

    Please note: Our process and procedures may be updated as the COVID-19 situation develops in our region.

    Last modified on 10/16/2020

  • How long does the virus remain active on inanimate objects, such as clothing, currency, coins, and hard surfaces such as countertops and door handles?

    This is one of the topics that remains under study; it's still not certain exactly how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces. According to the World Health Organization, studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days (at one point nine days was mentioned, which the latest studies suggest may be unlikely). Survival of the virus will vary under different conditions, including type of surface, temperature, humidity and moisture, exposure to sunlight, and other factors.

    If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Wash your hands with soap and water or clean them with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose. 

    Last modified on 3/14/2020

  • How to protect yourself
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
    • Stay home when you are sick.
    • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.

    If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

    Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

    Last modified on 3/5/2020

  • How does COVID-19 spread?

    COVID-19 is a new disease and we are still learning how it spreads, the severity of illness it causes and to what extent it may spread in the United States.

    The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

    • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
    • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

    These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

    Last modified on 3/5/2020

  • Can COVID-19 spread from contact with infected surfaces or objects?

    It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

    How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious (spread easily), like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily. Another factor is whether the spread is sustained, spreading continually without stopping.

    The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in some affected geographic areas.

    Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.

    Last modified on 3/16/2020

  • Can someone spread the virus without being sick?
    • People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).
    • Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

    Last modified on 3/5/2020

  • If someone has minor symptoms and tests positive for COVID-19, can they be isolated at home instead of a hospital?

    At this time, patients testing positive for COVID-19 who have mild symptoms, are not over age 60 and do not have an underlying medical condition are advised to isolate at home. If a patient with COVID-19 is concerned, begins to experience shortness of breath, starts feeling worse a week or so into the illness, is over age 60 or has an underlying medical condition, they are strongly encouraged to call their doctor or the UTMB Access Center at (800) 917-8906 to speak with our 24/7 nurse hotline.

    Last modified on 3/16/2020