MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s been a year since the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Minnesota. And since then, life has changed, the virus has evolved and multiple vaccine options are now on the table.
Even though we know more about this virus now than we did last March, there’s still a lot of information to track — and it can get a bit overwhelming. So, every week, we’ll be asking experts about recent COVID-19 developments.
Returning for the third week is Dr. George Morris, who is the Physician Vice President for Performance Excellence at CentraCare. Since January of last year, he’s been serving as the physician incident commander for CentraCare’s COVID-19 response.
Watch the video above, or read his answers to some of the bigger COVID-19 questions below.
So, what do we need to know about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?
The Johnson & Johnson, or what’s called the Janssen vaccine, is a single-dose vaccine. The data on it shows that it’s anywhere in that you know, 63% to 85% effective for what’s called symptomatic COVID. What’s more important is that it’s 93% to 95% effective against serious COVID, or deaths from COVID.
And that’s what I would compare to Moderna and Pfizer, because both of them are above 95% effective at saving lives.
Now, we may still get people that test positive after them. But our goal here is to decrease the serious disease and the deaths.
The Janssen is nice because it’s one shot, one time, you don’t have to worry about where am I going to be three weeks later. And now with the Janssen vaccine, and we have that opportunity to do it as a one-time, one-and-done, that will help us out.
What are the side effects of the Janssen vaccine?
The reactions seem to be a little less, you know, in other words the fevers aren’t quite as high. The malaise or general cruddiness is less, it’s still there. It’s still about a 50% side effect for the Janssen vaccine. But it tends to be more just local reaction, arm pain, muscle aches, not as much of that: I need some time off of work. You can say that’s another benefit of the single dose shot.
Gov. Tim Walz estimates that 70% of those 65 and older will be vaccinated by the end of March. Is that possible?
I think this is very doable. You know, right now, we’re at around 53% of our elderly, so 65-plus. We can get to 70% by the end of March, if not sooner. We’re vaccinating over 200,000 people a week, if you look at the statistics. And if half of that goes to our 65-plus, we can quickly get to that 70% rate, and kind of move on to additional medical groups, other groups of workers, you know, and kind of expand this throughout our state, this is very doable.
How are vaccines being delivered to the state’s communities of color?
So a lot of our focus now has been on the 65 and above, along with health care workers, teachers, you know, and some other targeted groups.
And that’s where we’ve done some work on what’s called the BIPOC, Black, Indigenous people, and people of color, Hispanic communities. Now shifting into more, we’ll say, the under 65, with chronic diseases, many members of our black and Hispanic communities have these chronic diseases.
We’re also going to need to pay attention to how they get (health care). So access. They may not be able to have a digital relationship. They may not be as able to travel to a mass vaccination center.
So, our goal will be to instead do focused outreach. You know, bring it closer to their communities, whether that’s a church, a gathering place, a mosque, a community center. So right now we’re going to be able to do those plans to do more outreach to our communities of color.