4:13 PM, Feb 27, 2020


How the Johnson & Johnson vaccine's protection mechanism differs from Pfizer and Moderna

Posted at 7:56 AM, Mar 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-05 07:56:06-05

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is now being distributed across West Michigan, but it actually works a little differently to protect you than Pfizer's and Moderna’s versions.

The Ottawa County Department of Public Health explained how this latest vaccine works and why there’s no ‘better choice’ between the three available right now.

“It’s another weapon that we can use right now to get our lives back to normal,” said Toni Bulthuis, the department's immunization supervisor.

Bulthuis said that the single-dose vaccine also uses a different mechanism to build protection.

“It uses adenovirus, which is similar to a cold virus,” she said. “We get that inactivated virus or bacteria in our system that is carried within the vaccine, our body recognizes it, and creates antibodies, antigens so that when it’s recognized again, we can fight it.”

The CDC classifies the Johnson & Johnson version as a viral vector vaccine, which uses a genetically modified inactive virus. Pfizer and Moderna use mRNA technology to trigger the same immune response; basically giving your cells instructions on how to make a portion of the spike protein unique to COVID-19 and eradicate it.

Bulthuis wants to reassure people that there’s no live virus used in any version of the vaccine.

She said, “They are able to take off that part of the cell that actually makes us ill, so it’s not active; it’s not giving us any part of the disease. They can kind of create it so it will look like that virus, so our body can actually react to it, but it’s not the virus itself.”

Most importantly, despite different efficacy rates, Bulthuis said that the results are the same.

“You want to see that it’s protecting against 100 percent of hospitalizations, which it is, and 100 percent against COVID deaths, and that is huge,” she said.

When it comes time to get your vaccine, Bulthuis said there’s no need to be picky about getting the best one.

“The first thing that’s available that you feel you can consciously get, get that vaccine,” she said.

The Ottawa County Health Department reports that they received 1,500 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week and will be hosting a clinic for those on their waiting list Friday.

The department said that they’ve gotten through nearly 50 percent of the people in their 65+ priority group.