Why Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine is probably the best shot

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Some people might prefer Johnson & Johnson's shot because it was tested on variants, has milder side effects, and is easier to get.
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Pfizer's and Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines were near perfect at preventing symptomatic infections in trials.

Johnson & Johnson's shot has benefits: It's cheap, easy, and mild, and it performs against variants.

The truth is you can't pick out which vaccine you get anyway, so it's a good thing they all work.

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Americans have had two extremely similar authorized COVID-19 vaccines since December: one mRNA vaccine from Pfizer, and another mRNA vaccine from Moderna.

But now, there is another coronavirus shot authorized for use across the US: Johnson & Johnson's adenovirus jab, which got a green light from the US Food and Drug Administration on Saturday after an expert committee unanimously recommended on Friday evening that it should receive emergency-use authorization.

In trials around the world, J&J's shot was shown to be 66% effective at preventing coronavirus infections altogether, and 85% effective at preventing severe COVID-19 cases, when given four weeks to take effect.

Taken at face value, that may not appear as good as Moderna's or Pfizer's two-shot vaccines, both of which had efficacy better than 94% in their 2020 trials.

But don't be fooled by the buffet of incomplete vaccine data we have. Comparing efficacy rates among different vaccine trials conducted at different times is like comparing apples to oranges. That's why Dr. Anthony Fauci and other experts have said they would just take whichever shot they could get.

And for some people, getting the J&J vaccine may be ideal.

Young, healthy people, and those who can't necessarily afford to come back for a second jab, may prefer it, and others who don't tolerate vaccine side effects well might like it better too. Plus, you have to consider that J&J's shot was tested out at the height of the pandemic, which may have had an effect on the numbers in the trial.

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