NEW YORK (AP) -- Johnson & Johnson has asked U.S. regulators to clear the world's first single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, an easier-to-use option that could boost scarce supplies.

Preliminary results from a massive study showed J&J's vaccine was safe and offered strong protection against moderate to severe COVID-19.

It didn't appear quite as strong as two-dose competitors made by Pfizer and Moderna.

The company filed an application with the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday.

An FDA panel will meet and pore over the results.  It could be available for distribution by early March.

Coronavirus deaths in the United States have surpassed 450,000. The number of daily deaths remains stubbornly high at more than 3,000 a day, despite falling infections and the arrival of multiple vaccines.

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