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Should you get a Johnson and Johnson vaccine, or wait for Pfizer or Moderna? Doctor weighs in

Posted at 3:00 AM, Mar 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-19 09:38:55-04

The Mayor of Detroit made headlines this month after initially declining around 6,000 doses of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, reportedly because the single-dose shot wasn't as effective as the other two shots, Pfizer and Moderna, during clinical trials.

According to those studies, both Pfizer and Moderna were found to be roughly 95% effective at preventing COVID-19 cases; Johnson and Johnson was slightly less at 72% when it came to preventing moderate COVID illness.

But experts say the more important metric to focus on is that all three vaccines were 100% effective at preventing deaths due to COVID and also did remarkably well when it came to helping COVID patients avoid hospitalizations.

Our ABC15 Health Insider Dr. Piyush Gupta says if you're offered any of these vaccines, including Johnson and Johnson, take it as soon as you're eligible.

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"I argue that is still incredible," explains Dr. Gupta. "The first thing that I focus on is the fact that it's preventing hospitalizations and deaths if you were to get infected. That's a much better barometer for success than moderate disease. We should really focus on that. Yes, is there an increased risk that you might get COVID? Yes. But it's still reduced mortality significantly."

And Dr. Gupta says there is something else we need to keep in mind.

"The second thing I'll say is that we are comparing the Johnson and Johnson vaccine to Pfizer and Moderna when they were both introduced and tested at different times. The Pfizer and Moderna trials occurred when some of the more aggressive strains didn't exist in the ecosystem. Johnson and Johnson was tested not only in the U.S. but also South Africa and South America... and even with those aggressive strains, it prevented hospitalizations and deaths significantly."

Dr. Gupta also says one of the keys to getting back to normal is making sure our healthcare system isn't overwhelmed, which he says all three vaccines dramatically help with by preventing people from needing to go to the hospital.

The mission of ABC15's Health Insider series is to dive deeper into the things impacting your health and the health of those around you. We're going in-depth with expert advice from people who know it, see it every day in their work and study it. Have a story idea? Contact the team at