April 13, 2021

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Experts feared the Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s slightly lower efficacy rate would lead to an impression of a two-tiered system. That has been exactly the case in Detroit, where the mayor just rejected a shipment of the company’s vaccine.

CNN reports that Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan (D) declined an allocation of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine this week, saying the other available vaccines are better. “Johnson & Johnson is a very good vaccine. Moderna and Pfizer are the best,” he said. “And I am going to do everything I can to make sure the residents of the City of Detroit get the best.” Stat News‘ Matthew Herper called this a “bad plan.”

It’s true that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine trials showed a 72 percent efficacy rate, while Moderna and Pfizer, the two other approved coronavirus vaccines, have a rate of about 95 percent. But health experts say it’s still an excellent option, and has other perks like only requiring a single shot and frequently leading to fewer side effects, reports The New York Times. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said people shouldn’t overthink which one to get, and explained the vaccines can’t really be compared head-to-head because of different trial circumstances.

Besides, experts note, the raw numbers don’t show the full picture. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine prevented all hospitalizations and deaths in its large clinical trial, meaning the slightly lower efficacy rate really only points to mild to moderate disease.

Detroit’s mayor, however, said the city has been able to meet demand with just its supply of Pfizer and Moderna doses, but CNN notes Duggan’s administration only expanded vaccine eligibility to residents ages 50 and older with chronic medical conditions on Thursday. Duggan said he would accept Johnson & Johnson doses later on if all other doses are distributed and there are remaining residents who want a vaccine. Summer Meza

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