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Researcher talks availability of AstraZeneca vaccine ahead of expected Johnson & Johnson approval

"We may get to a point in the next two, three, four months where supply actually outweighs demand," said Dr. Zeke McKinney.

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The Food and Drug Administration could give the green light to the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine as early as this weekend. Add in the possibility of another one from AstraZeneca and it could be easier than ever to get a shot.

"For the time being, when people say, well which vaccine should I get, I'd say get the one you can get today," said Dr. Zeke McKinney who is overseeing the HealthPartners' study on the AstraZeneca vaccine, which hasn't been approved yet.

Dr. McKinney says the COVID-19 vaccines are all effective. In clinical trials, he says the AstraZeneca vaccine reduces transmission by about 60% and that, says the doctor, is "pretty good".

"For all the vaccines that have existed for the history of time, even prior to COVID and including our COVID vaccines, that's never been 100% and probably never will be 100%," said Dr. McKinney.

He asks three questions to study a vaccine's effectiveness. 

Does it prevent transmission?

Does it prevent disease?

Does it prevent severe disease?

Many doctors warn against comparing the efficacy of all the vaccines. 

"In terms of effectiveness, I don't know that I like any one better than the other because they all work pretty good," explained Dr. McKinney. "I still think we have a long way to go to understand the difference between pretty good and super great."

Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, AstraZeneca can be stored in normal refrigerators, making it cheaper too. Dr. McKinney also thinks it could get FDA approval next month. Regulators in Canada gave it a go on Friday. 

The potential supply increase had President Biden predicting Thursday that any adult who wanted a vaccine could get one in one to three months. Minnesota health officials are hoping the general public would have access to the vaccines by summer. 

"We may get to a point in the next two, three, four months where supply actually outweighs demand," said Dr. McKinney, who added that a speedy vaccination rollout means we can also enjoy the things we used to more quickly. 

"Otherwise, we're going to be living in this world with things being shut down for a long time," he said. "But ultimately clinicians, including myself, have to be compassionate and approach this with a great deal of sensitivity because everybody’s hesitation is going to be different. We have to take that seriously and help educate people on what the science really says." 

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