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How St. Louisans helped forward the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine

On Wednesday, the FDA announced data showed the vaccine is safe and effective for more widespread use

ST. LOUIS — As the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine moves closer to an emergency use authorization, there are some St. Louisans already walking around with the shot.

“I think we're really happy,” Dr. Rachel Presti said. “I think we keep getting happy news about vaccines and this is sort of more happy news.”

Presti oversaw Washington University’s J&J vaccine trial, helping to sign up 225 people in two months. That data then contributed to the overall findings: the single-dose vaccine was 85% effective at preventing severe disease and 66% effective against moderate disease. On Wednesday, the FDA announced data showed the vaccine is safe and effective for more widespread use.

Those numbers are lower than Moderna and Pfizer’s two-dose versions, but the J&J results include studies conducted in geographical areas with the current variants. It's still more effective than the average annual flu vaccine.

RELATED: FDA staff releases review of Johnson & Johnson single-dose COVID vaccine

“If someone offers you a vaccine, say yes,” Presti said.

In an afternoon briefing, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson — who previously toured the research labs working on vaccine trials — said this also has another advantage: it doesn't require ultra-cold storage so it's more accessible. The city currently partners with Affinia Healthcare to store up to 9,000 doses.

“I think this going to be a real game-changer if we can get enough supply of it,” Krewson said.

Even as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine moves one step closer to possible approval by a panel later this week, research continues as well. Washington University is currently asking for applicants over the age of 60 for another trial that would study the effects of a two-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“COVID — I think — was just incredibly stressful for everybody obviously, and to some extent being able to do something that felt like we could contribute and make a difference and be part of a solution, it just helped with not feeling that stress. It felt like we were doing something that was going to make a difference, and so it's wonderful to be at this point now and to be able to say we were part of that,” Presti said.

St. Louis University also ran a Johnson & Johnson trial.

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