Study: J&J vaccine may need booster against delta variant

Coronavirus Vaccine

(Johnson & Johnson via AP)

(NewsNation Now) — A new study found a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine produced less effective antibodies against concerning variants, especially when compared to two-dose mRNA vaccines.

This study has not been peer-reviewed and was conducted in a lab.

The authors said policy makers should monitor the situation for now, but consider a second dose for Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients if breakthrough infections rise.

“The public health apparatus should focus on primary immunization in the U.S. and globally,” the study said.

A Johnson & Johnson spokesperson said the study does not provide a complete look at how the vaccine works.

“The dual mechanisms of protection against COVID-19 that are generated by the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, both neutralizing and non-neutralizing binding antibodies and multiple kinds of T-cells, play a cooperative role in combating SARS COV-2,” the spokesperson said in an email to NewsNation.

Clinical trials found the vaccine was 85% effective at preventing severe disease and 100% effective at preventing hospitalization and death.

Earlier this month they said their own laboratory study found their single-dose vaccine prompted “neutralizing antibodies” against the delta variant.

The study, which was conducted by scientists with the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, is free to read on bioRxiv. It found the shot elicited antibodies of “low neutralizing titer,” which means there was a low level detected.

“The data underscore the importance of surveillance for breakthrough infections that result in severe COVID-19 and suggest the benefit of a second immunization following [Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine] to increase protection against the variants,” the study’s abstract said.

It points out that previous studies have not revealed such drastic decreases in ineffectiveness from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and recommends studying breakthrough infections going forward.

The study found Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines were not as effective against the beta, delta, delta plus, and lambda variants, but that T- and B-cell response would “likely… provide durable protection.”

The study relied on lab experiments using fluids collected at specific times after vaccination with the three vaccines.

Nathaniel Landau, an architect of the study, told the New York Times he hoped this would prompt health officials to consider pairing a Johnson & Johnson dose with either a booster shot from the same brand or a Pfizer or Moderna shot.

Mixing COVID-19 vaccines is rare in the U.S. but not unheard of globally. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends sticking with one brand using the vaccine course that was studied in large clinical trials.

“We don’t know if a mRNA booster (or just 2 doses of J&J) will significantly boost protection, though it’s likely it would given boosters do for nearly every other vaccine,” Saskatchewan virologist Dr. Angela Rasmussen tweeted in June.

The delta variant is fueling a resurgence of the pandemic, especially in warmer areas of the country. However, vaccines are still protecting most people. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Friday more than 97% of hospitalized patients in the country are unvaccinated.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine has been hamstrung by manufacturing problems and reports of rare blood clots. Its single-dose approach was initially hailed as a boon for vaccinating underserved communities.

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