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The fight against COVID-19 got another weapon after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved an emergency use authorization for a third vaccine.

On Saturday, Feb. 27, the FDA gave the thumbs-up to the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine to be distributed in the United States for ages 18 years and older.

With this approval, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, which is a part of Johnson & Johnson, has begun shipping the vaccine to the federal government. Company officials stated they plan to ship more than 20 million doses by the end of March and 100 million by the end of June. 

The Janssen vaccine only requires one shot, unlike the other two vaccines approved for emergency use in the United States — Pfizer and Moderna — which require two doses spread several weeks apart.

The latest vaccine also doesn’t require extreme cold temperatures for storage.

“The vaccine is estimated to remain stable for two years at minus-4 (degrees Fahrenheit), and a maximum of three months at routine refrigeration at temperatures of 36-46 (degrees),” according to a Janssen statement.

In studies, the vaccine demonstrated an 85 percent effectiveness in preventing severe or critical COVID-19 cases 28 days after being administered, according to both Janssen and FDA documents.

“This vaccine is another important tool in our toolbox to equitably vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “As a one-dose vaccine, people do not have to return for a second dose to be protected. In addition, this vaccine does not need to be kept in a freezer and can be stored at refrigerated temperatures — so it is easy to transport and store and allows for expanded availability in most community settings and mobile sites, as supply scales up.”

Walensky added that the third vaccine comes at “a potentially pivotal time.” She pointed out that the CDC’s data suggest the recent declines in COVID-19 cases might have stalled or are leveling off “at still very high numbers.”

As of Feb. 28, Burnet County cases total 3,750 — 478 considered active — with 59 deaths. Llano County cases total 1,070 — 171 active – with 46 deaths.

Walensky added that, even though COVID-19 vaccines are available, it remains vital that people follow steps to mitigate the spread of the virus that causes the disease, such as wearing a face covering, social distancing, and frequently washing hands.

As the third vaccine rolls out, Texas is still receiving a weekly allotment of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, the federal government is shipping more than 676,000 first doses of both to providers across Texas the week of March 1.

In the Highland Lakes, the Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Marble Falls hub is getting 1,170 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. 

According to the state’s allocation update, no other provider in Burnet or Llano counties is receiving vaccines in March. 

Two other nearby hubs, Hill Country Memorial Hospital in Fredericksburg and Family Emergency Rooms in Cedar Park, are getting their weekly allotments. Hill Country Memorial is slated to get 1,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine, while Family Emergency Rooms is scheduled to get 6,000 doses of the same vaccine.

Most, if not all, hubs and providers require pre-registration and an appointment for vaccinations. Check with their websites on their processes.

Since the vaccine rollout began in mid-December, Texas providers have administered more than 5 million doses. According to State Health Services, approximately 3.3 million Texans have received at least one dose and about 1.7 million are fully vaccinated.

Walenksy said people shouldn’t be concerned about which vaccine they receive.

“I know that many Americans look forward to rolling up their sleeves with confidence as soon as a COVID-19 vaccine is available to them,” she said. “Getting vaccinated with the first vaccine available to you will help protect all of us from COVID-19.”

For more COVID-19 news in the Highland Lakes, including how to set up a vaccination appointment, visit the coronavirus resources webpage.