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Difference Between Johnson & Johnson and mRNA vaccines

It’s been over a year since the pandemic hit us hard, but the fight against COVID-19 is still far from over. By now, we know that the virus causing the COVID-19 infection is a member of viruses called coronaviruses. These viruses take their name from the array of menacing proteins that protrude from their surface, forming a coat which appears to be a crown. Now that other major variants of the virus are emerging, the only ray of hope for the people around the world is the vaccines. Thanks to the hard work and efforts of the scientific community, we now have a couple of vaccine candidates that are authorized for emergency use. But the question is which vaccine is best for you?

What is mRNA Vaccines?

Messenger RNA vaccines, also called mRNA vaccines, are a cutting edge technology for vaccine development and a new approach to vaccines that aims to protect against infectious diseases. The mRNA vaccines are among the first vaccines to be authorized for emergency use in the United States. These are a new generation of vaccines which contain a messenger RNA – instead of the antigen itself – that contains instructions for making proteins. When inside the body, a part of our cells reads this mRNA and strings together building blocks called amino acids. The mRNA is then translated into proteins via the same process our cells use to make their own proteins.

The SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccines contain the recipe for proteins that help the virus to infect cells. The virus’s RNA instructs our cells to make more copies of the same virus. But, since out body has a defense system of its own, it restricts any protein, virus, or bacteria from entering the body. But it takes some time to learn to recognize the foreign particles. These proteins trigger immune cells and prompt our body to make antibodies. So, if the person gets infected with the virus, these antibodies will easily recognize the proteins on the virus. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are some of the first mRNA-based vaccines to be approved for emergency use in the United States.

What is Johnson & Johnson Vaccine?

Unlike Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and Moderna vaccine which are mRNA based vaccines, the new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is based on the development and production of adenovirus vectors. This vaccine is developed by Belgian company Janssen Pharmaceuticals which is owned by Johnson & Johnson. The Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is based on viral vector technology which uses a genetically modified adenovirus to carry the gene for making spike proteins of the novel coronavirus. The virus has been altered so that it cannot harm the body. The vaccine claims to be equally effective as Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in terms of deaths and hospitalizations.

In June 2020, Johnson & Johnson began conducting clinical trials of the vaccine for efficacy and almost 43,000 participants volunteered for the phase 3 clinical trials. After months of study and trials, finally in January 2021, the company had showed their data based on which the vaccine has achieved a 66% efficacy in a single-dose regimen in fighting off symptomatic COVID-19 after 28 days. Considering the Janssen vaccine has been tested under more serious circumstances with all the new variants around including the UK variant, it proves to be highly effective compared to other vaccines. Also, the Janssen vaccine is 100% effective against hospitalizations and deaths, which is great.

Difference between Johnson & Johnson and mRNA

Vaccine Technology 

– The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is based on viral vector technology that uses an inactivated harmless virus called the adenovirus, which would normally cause the common cold. The virus has been genetically modified to not cause any harm to the body and it is instructed to carry a portion of the genetic code of the virus called spike proteins that causes the coronavirus disease. The body then recognizes the spike proteins by instructing the cells to produce antibodies to fight off the virus.

Messenger RNA or mRNA vaccines are a new approach to vaccine development that unlike conventional vaccine technologies, contain the recipe for proteins that help the virus to infect cells. These proteins trigger immune cells and instruct our body to make antibodies. So, if the person gets infected with the virus, these antibodies will easily recognize the proteins on the virus and start fighting it off. Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are two of the earlier vaccine candidates to use mRNA technology.

Vaccine Efficacy 

– The Janssen COVID-19 vaccine has achieved a 66% efficacy in a single-dose regimen in fighting off symptomatic COVID-19 after 28 days, the reports based on the clinical trials involving almost 43,000 participants suggested. The data further suggested that the vaccine is 85% effective in fighting off severe COVID-19 infection, and 100% effective against hospitalizations and untimely deaths due to the coronavirus.

In December 2020, the FDA approved the two mRNA COVID-19 vaccines – Pfizer and Moderna vaccines – for emergency use in the United States both of which claimed to have achieved unexpectedly high efficacy of over 90%. The overall efficacy of these mRNA-based vaccines was determined based on the number of participants who volunteered for the phase 3 clinical trials and who developed symptomatic COVID-19 in vaccine and placebo groups. Based on the results, Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has showed a startling 95% efficacy and Moderna achieved a 94% efficacy.

Johnson & Johnson Vaccine vs. mRNA Vaccine: Comparison Chart

Summary

While a couple of vaccine candidates are now approved for emergency use in the United States, which include the new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine based on the viral vector technology and the two leading mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna), the question is about efficacy and which one’s better equipped to provide protection against the coronavirus disease. Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is a single-shot vaccine, so the company plans to inoculate more people in the first half of 2021. However, there’s a remote chance that the Janssen vaccine could cause severe allergic reactions in people after receiving the dose in a span of a few minutes to an hour. But, since the new Janssen COVID-19 has been tested under severe conditions, especially when new variants of the virus were reported, it proves to be a great contended in the ongoing COVID-19 vaccine race.


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    References :


    [0]Chakraborty, Arup K. and Andrey S. Shaw. Viruses, Pandemics, and Immunity. Massachusetts, United States: MIT Press, 2021. Print

    [1]Chakraborty, Arup K. and Andrey S. Shaw. Viruses, Pandemics, and Immunity. Massachusetts, United States: MIT Press, 2021. Print

    [2]Edwards, Kathryn M., et al. The Covid-19 Vaccine Guide: The Quest for Implementation of Safe and Effective Vaccinations. New York, United States: Simon and Schuster, 2021. Print

    [3]Erdmann, Volker A. and Jan Barciszewski. RNA Technologies and Their Applications. Berlin, Germany: Springer Nature, 2010. Print

    [4]Image credit: https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/51001567821_92abbb66db_b.jpg

    [5]Image credit: https://cdn.aarp.net/content/dam/aarp/health/drugs_supplements/2020/12/1140-mnra-covid-vaccine.jpg

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