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New vaccines show promise amid concerns over coronavirus variants

New vaccines created by Johnson & Johnson and Novavax are showing promising results in reducing illness caused by the coronavirus, though they were less effective than other vaccines and against some virus variants, which are causing growing concerns. White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The drive to get more coronavirus vaccines into more arms is gaining more momentum tonight.

    Findings on two new candidates could accelerate the effort.

    White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor reports.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Today, all eyes on COVID-19 vaccines. Johnson & Johnson, a "NewsHour" funder, announced that trials show, overall, its vaccine is 66 percent effective. That's not as strong as its Moderna and Pfizer rivals. Both of them are more than 90 percent effective.

    But at a White House task force briefing, the president's chief medical adviser on COVID, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine showed very encouraging results in the worst-cases.

  • Anthony Fauci:

    Overall, in the United States, in South Africa, and in Brazil, the overall efficacy for severe disease was 85 percent. There were essentially no hospitalizations or deaths in the vaccine group, whereas, in the placebo group, there were.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Fauci also noted that, unlike the other vaccines, Johnson & Johnson's requires just a single shot, and it does not need to be stored in super cold temperatures. That could cut the storage costs and help vaccinate more people in a shorter amount of time.

    In early February, the company intends to request from the Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization. But there is a growing concern about how well any vaccines stand up to the new coronavirus variants. They're emerging around the world, including those first seen in Britain, Brazil, and especially the one first found in South Africa.

    Overall, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine tested 72 percent effective in the U.S., but against the South African variant, that number dropped to 57 percent. Also today, early findings showed that a fourth vaccine, this one from Novavax, is nearly 90 percent effective overall. But against the variant identified in South Africa, it was only 50 percent effective.

    All of the variants are now spreading across the U.S. And, today, Andy Slavitt, the senior White House adviser on COVID-19, said that means passing the president's $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan is more critical than ever.

  • Andy Slavitt:

    I couldn't urge people to — people in the Congress to be more and more focused on the American Rescue Plan than I can, given the state of the variants.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The U.S. is now vaccinating more than one million Americans per day. So far, the nation has administered 26 million doses.

    At the same time, world leaders remain concerned about the vaccines equitable distribution. The secretary-general of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, is calling the problem a global emergency.

  • Antonio Guterres:

    More than 70 million doses have been administered, less than 20,000 of these on the African continent. A global immunity gap puts everyone at risk.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    And, today, the head of the World Health Organization warned that hoarding vaccines will only make the pandemic worse for everyone.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Yamiche Alcindor.

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