(CN) — The Food and Drug Administration approved Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose Covid-19 vaccine Saturday, making it the third vaccine to gain emergency use approval in the U.S.
As millions of Americans still wait to receive vaccinations, Johnson & Johnson’s shot could speed along the process. As many as a few million doses could reach states by Monday. The company itself said it plans to ship 20 million doses across the U.S. by the end of March.
The vaccine’s efficacy rate of 72% in U.S. clinical trials is less than the 95% rate of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. However, the new vaccine does not require two doses and does not need to be frozen, making it more accessible to those in rural areas.
“The authorization of this vaccine expands the availability of vaccines, the best medical prevention method for COVID-19, to help us in the fight against this pandemic, which has claimed over half a million lives in the United States,” Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a statement.
President Joe Biden released a statement Saturday celebrating the news.
“We know that the more people get vaccinated, the faster we will overcome the virus, get back to our friends and loved ones, and get our economy back on track,” Biden said. “Thanks to the brilliance of our scientists, the resilience of our people, and the eagerness of Americans in every community to protect themselves and their loved ones by getting vaccinated, we are moving in the right direction.”
Biden also cautioned that the fight against the pandemic “is far from over” and urged people to continue to wear masks and practice social distancing.
“As I have said many times, things are still likely to get worse again as new variants spread, and the current improvement could reverse. My Administration will not make the mistake of taking this threat lightly, or just assuming the best: that’s why we need the American Rescue Plan to keep this fight going in the months ahead,” he said.
Richard Besser, former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a statement that he was encouraged by the vaccine’s approval.
“With three Covid-19 vaccines now available, the number of cases and deaths around the country continuing to fall, and Congress taking steps toward approving additional critically needed economic relief, I have never been more encouraged that we might be finally turning the corner on this pandemic,” he said.
Two other vaccines from Novavax and AstraZeneca are still in clinical trials