HIDALGO COUNTY, Texas (KVEO) — The Rio Grande Valley is set to receive a total of 9,300 doses of the newly FDA-authorized Johnson & Johnson vaccine over the next few days across the four counties.
“We’re only 4% of the population of the state but we’re number 2 in total deaths, so because of our specific ethnicity and demographic, we really need to vaccinate our people,” Hidalgo County Health Authority Dr. Ivan Melendez said.
Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that have been distributed for months, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses vector technology instead of mRNA.
“One is a benign mRNA —the actual recipe injected — the other is a benign virus that actually carries that recipe into the body,” Dr. Melendez explained.
Despite having a lower efficacy rate in preventing moderate to severe disease – 66% overall compared to above 90 for the others – Dr. Melendez says it is not an inferior vaccine.
“If you’re looking at your objective — avoiding hospitalizations for serious disease — they’re pretty similar,” he said. “None of the people that received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were admitted into the hospital.”
He adds a benefit of Johnson & Johnson is increased accessibility.
“The beauty of it is it can last up to three months in a regular refrigerator,” he said. “The beauty is you only need one, so people who have a hard time getting to vaccination sites, people in rural areas, it’s much much easier for not only the vaccinator but also the person who receives it.”
With the combined rates of people infected and those vaccinated, Dr. Melendez estimates 40 to 45% of adults in the RGV have some degree of immunity to the virus.
“That means there are 55% that do not,” he said. “This is certainly not the time to say ‘I don’t need the vaccine’ I definitely encourage any one of the three.”
While it has been approved for one-dose, the company is studying whether a booster shot could further increase protection.
To view where vaccines are being distributed this week in Texas, visit here.