Explainer: How Johnson & Johnson's single-dose COVID vaccine works

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Johnson & Johnson announced on Jan. 29 that its single-dose coronavirus vaccine was 66 percent effective in preventing moderate disease 28 days after injection in its Phase 3 global trials, according to a company press release.

The company said the vaccine was 85 percent effective at preventing severe COVID, and that no one had died or was hospitalized 28 days following their vaccination.

Like the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine and Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, and unlike Pfizer and Moderna's mRNA vaccines, Johnson & Johnson's vaccine uses a modified adenovirus as a vector.

This animation explains how the vaccine works.

1. Johnson & Johnson's COVID vaccine uses a genetically modified common cold virus
2. SARS-CoV-2 virus and spike protein
3. Genome for the spike protein
4. Vaccine uses genetic material from the coronavirus
5. Vaccine uses a weakened adenovirus serotype 26 as a vector
6. Vector injecting its genetic payload into a human cell
7. Spike protein is displayed on the surface of the cell and triggers an immune response
8. Antibodies recognize the coronavirus

VOICEOVER (in English):

"Johnson & Johnson's COVID vaccine uses a genetically modified common cold virus — adenovirus 26 — altered with blueprints for the coronavirus's spike protein."

"The coronavirus's outer coating is covered in spike proteins, which give the virus its crown-like appearance."

"The spike protein possesses receptor binding domains, or RBDs, that the virus uses to pry open receptors before penetrating the cellular membrane."

"The Johnson & Johnson vaccine carries genetic material from the code for the spike protein that the coronavirus uses to enter a human cell."

"The spike protein gene is cut from the coronavirus ... and inserted into a vector, a virus that is weakened so that it cannot replicate inside the human body after injection."

"The EU this summer approved Johnson & Johnson's Ebola vaccine, which uses the same technology."

"The adenovirus vector also does not alter the human genome itself, as it does not carry the enzymes needed to edit DNA."

"Once the vector delivers its genetic payload to a cell, it causes the cell to produce spike proteins."

"These spike proteins are harmless on their own, but they should trigger the body to mount an immune response. This response produces antibodies and memory cells that will recognize SARS-CoV-2, the actual virus that causes COVID-19."

SOURCES: Johnson & Johnson, CNN, Washington Post