Los Angeles, CA

Will a Lack of Math Skills Hurt the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Rollout in Los Angeles?

Eugene Adams


Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti hopes to vaccinate everyone who wants one by the end of July. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine makes that goal a little easier. The FDA recently approved the J&J vaccine for emergency use.

There is no word yet on when Los Angeles will administer its first dose. However, according to Gov. Newsom, the first 380,000 doses should arrive as soon as next week

The J&J vaccine can be stored in a normal freezer and only requires one dose. That, combined with a rising number of total vaccine doses great news.

 Pfizer and Moderna have pledged to provide enough doses to vaccinate 300 million people by the end of July. Johnson & Johnson says it will deliver 100 million doses by the end of May. Putting all three of the vaccines together, there will be enough doses to vaccinate the entire country by the end of July, if not sooner. 

Not So Fast

Having enough doses doesn’t make a difference if people don’t take the vaccine. It also doesn’t help if people refuse certain vaccines. Some people are skeptical about the effectiveness of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Clinical trials have shown the J&J vaccine to be 85% effective against severe Covid infections. However, that number drops to 66% effective against symptomatic infections. That 66% statistic has led to a lot of confusion about its effectiveness vs. other vaccines. 

This confusion stems from a lack of basic math skills. 

How Effective is Each Vaccine?

Here is how effective each vaccine was against symptomatic Covid infections in U.S. trials. 

Johnson & Johnson: 72% 

Moderna: 94%

Pfizer: 95%

Looking at these numbers, it is understandable why some Los Angeles Residents might prefer to take the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. However, preventing symptomatic Covid was never the goal. 

What Is The Goal?

It is important to remember what the goal is when judging the effectiveness of the vaccines. Remember, we don’t shut down the country for the flu. The reason for that is the death rate is sufficiently low that we are comfortable taking the risk. 

Dr. Robert Wachter explains this concept well.

“There’s essentially no chance you will die of COVID (after vaccination), which is breathtaking. This is notable, considering the virus has killed more than half a million people in the U.S. over the last year.”
Dr. Wachter

Solving the actual problem is a basic math skill. Adding when the problem tells you to subtract will lead to the wrong answer. The same is true with forgetting the goal. Forgetting the goal of a vaccine can lead to misunderstanding its effectiveness. 

Don’t Compare Apples to Oranges

Another basic math skill people sometimes forget is not comparing apples to oranges. 

The process of a vaccine trial can be summarized simply. 

Step 1: Get a large group of people. 

Step 2: Give one group the vaccine and the other group a placebo. 

Step 3: Analyze the difference in the outcomes between the two groups. 

You can’t accurately compare different vaccines unless they were given to the same group of participants. If you try to do this, you will run into countless forms of bias. 

One example of bias is the presence of Covid Variants. Variants were more common when J&J did their trial than Pfizer and Moderna. Also, variants are more prevalent in some parts of the world than in others. That is why J&J was 66% effective worldwide and 72% effective in the U.S.

When people say that the J&J vaccine is less effective, that is a guess they don’t actually know. And we won’t know unless someone does a vaccine trial with all three vaccines in it. 

Final Thought

Los Angeles residents should feel confident getting any of the three vaccines. They all achieve the actual goal, which is limiting severe cases and death. 

It might also be a good idea to brush up on some basic math skills also. Basic math skills help avoid common misunderstandings, such as the effectiveness of vaccines.

Comments / 1

Published by

Southern California raised Henderson transplant. I write about sports and other events in the area.

Henderson, NV

More from Eugene Adams

Comments / 0