Why Do We Need More Than One COVID-19 Vaccine?

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The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines designed to prevent COVID-19 have shown promising results in Phase 3 clinical trials and are expected to receive emergency approval from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) before the end of the year. Paul Kilgore, M.D., a senior researcher for the Henry Ford Health System Global Health Initiative, is excited.

But he also cautions that it’s important for multiple vaccines to be tested and ultimately approved for COVID-19. “You don’t want to put all your eggs in one – or two – baskets,” he said.

Avoiding Production or Other Issues

There are good reasons to have more than one vaccine. Hiccups in vaccine production can be an issue. Since 2000, after years without vaccine supply problems, the United States experienced shortages of vaccines for widespread use against nine diseases. The reasons include interruptions in production and supply, and higher-than-expected demand.

“We’ve learned over the past 15 or 20 years that it’s crucial to have more than one vaccine, and more than one manufacturer,” says Dr. Kilgore. “When issues arise, it takes time to fix them.”

Diversity Is Important in Vaccine Development

Theoretically, certain vaccines could also be more effective with certain populations. People of different ethnicities, genders, ages and health conditions may have better results with one type over another.

Henry Ford is conducting two clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines. One is the Moderna trial, which Moderna announced is 94.5 percent effective. Because they know more than one vaccine is needed to fight COVID-19, Dr. Kilgore and his team of researchers at Henry Ford continue their work on a second COVID-19 vaccine trial: The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 investigational vaccine.

And they are seeking people over age 40 from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities to participate. When people have different genetic and biologic makeup, their bodies can produce antibodies differently. To ensure a vaccine will protect people of all ethnic groups, people from all backgrounds need to be represented in clinical trials.

“It’s not time to rest,” says Dr. Kilgore. “The more approaches we take, the more likely we will be to have enough vaccine that is effective for all people.”

Have more vaccine questions? 
Check out answers to common questions or view a video of our Facebook Live event on vaccines. 

Henry Ford is currently enrolling diverse participants over age 40 in the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine trial. To learn more and enroll, visit henryford.com/jandjvaccine and complete the pre-screening form. 

Dr. Paul Kilgore is a researcher with Henry Ford Health System and the co-principal investigator of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine trial.

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