MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesotans will soon have access to what Gov. Tim Walz calls a “game changer” in the fight against COVID-19.

On Saturday, the FDA authorized the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for emergency use. The vaccine is the third to be authorized for use in the United States following the shots from Pfizer and Moderna.

Still, the newly-approved vaccine has some considerable differences from the earlier two drugs.

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The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was tested in an international study of about 40,000 people. The study revealed the vaccine is 66% effective overall in preventing symptomatic disease.

When it comes to preventing severe cases of COVID-19, the vaccine is 85% effective, Johnson & Johnson says. The vaccine is 100% effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths.

The vaccine is also unique in that it only requires a single dose. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both require two shots to be fully effective.

“When it’s only one injection, that makes it a lot less complicated,” said Dr. Frank Rhame with Allina Health.

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The Johnson & Johnson vaccine can also be stored in a refrigerator, making it easier to transport than vaccines that require subzero coolers.

Johnson & Johnson says the supply will start small, with only about four million doses. However, production will quickly ramp up. By the end of March, there’s expected to be 20 million doses of the vaccine.

When asked via a Twitter poll, WCCO-TV viewers were split on which vaccine to take if they had a choice.

According to Rhames, the best vaccine to take is the one that is available to you.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine study also indicated that the shot offered protection against some of the new COVID-19 variants. Those variants were not in circulation when the trials were done for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Kate Raddatz