Second dose of J.&J vaccine gives a boost, company reports show

Johnson & Johnson vaccine booster dramatically increases antibody levels against coronavirus, company reported Wednesday. Johnson ...


Johnson & Johnson vaccine booster dramatically increases antibody levels against coronavirus, company reported Wednesday.

Johnson & Johnson will submit the data to the Food and Drug Administration, which is evaluating similar studies by Pfizer and Moderna. If authorized by the agency, the Biden administration wants to provide booster injections eight months after vaccination.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was missing from the government’s initial recall plan, announced last week. But with the new data, the company hopes to be part of the initial distribution of additional shots, which could take place as early as September.

“We look forward to discussing with public health officials a potential strategy for our Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, increasing eight months or more after primary single-dose vaccination,” Dr Mathai Mammen, Global Director of Janssen Research & Development at Johnson & Johnson, said in a statement.

In February, the FDA has granted emergency clearance to Johnson & Johnson for its single-injection vaccine. A clinical trial conducted in the fall and last winter showed that a single stroke was 72% effective in preventing symptoms of Covid-19 in U.S. participants. In the trial, none of the vaccinated volunteers were hospitalized or died.

Johnson & Johnson conducted its clinical trial before the Delta variant became mainstream, leaving open the question of how well the vaccine worked against the highly contagious form of the virus. But in a study published earlier this month, South African researchers found that a single injection of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was up to 95 percent efficiency against death from the Delta variant, and reduced the risk of hospitalization by 71 percent.

In its new study, Johnson & Johnson followed 17 volunteers from last year’s clinical trial. Six months after vaccination, their antibody levels had changed little.

This is different from the pattern seen with Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. These injections initially produce higher levels of antibodies, but their levels then decline over several months.

When volunteers in the Johnson & Johnson trial were boosted at six months, their antibodies to the coronavirus jumped nine times more than after the first dose.

Studies of Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines have shown a comparable increase in antibody levels. Since the three vaccines have not been tested in a direct comparison, it is not possible to determine which provides the biggest boost.

Johnson & Johnson said they submitted a manuscript describing the research to the website Medrxiv. It hasn’t been posted yet.

A number of studies suggest that higher levels of antibodies provide better protection, especially against the Delta variant. But other parts of the immune system, such as T cells, are also important. These data cannot therefore give any precise estimate the effectiveness of the recall against Covid-19.

“It’s too early to estimate protection,” said Dr. Dan Barouch, a virologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, who led some studies for Johnson & Johnson but was not involved in the booster trial.

Besides antibodies, researchers at Johnson & Johnson also found that the booster increased the body’s supply of immune cells that can attack cells infected with the coronavirus. These results are still in preparation for publication.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses an adenovirus to deliver the coronavirus genes into cells. When the company started its trials, some wondered if people would make antibodies against adenoviruses, which could make a booster unnecessary. The new findings show this is not the case.

“What we would previously have considered a major hurdle may not be such a huge hurdle,” said Lynda Coughlan, a virologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who was not involved in the ‘study.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the only vaccine in the United States or Europe authorized as a single dose. Since November, the company has been running a clinical trial to assess the level of protection people get from two doses, two months apart. This trial should give results in the coming weeks.

After the volunteers in this trial received the second dose, their antibody levels increased threefold. The much larger increase in the new booster study is likely due to the longer wait between doses. The six-month hiatus gives the immune system time to develop a more mature response to the coronavirus.

This spring, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine distribution was severely hampered in the United States by an entrepreneur improper handling of its manufacture in a factory in Maryland. Only eight percent of Americans vaccinated – or about 14 million people – have received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Since then, the US supply of the vaccine has increased. A federal official said the government has enough reserves in reserve to give reminders to anyone who received a first dose of Johnson & Johnson, if allowed.

News of potential Johnson & Johnson boosters for Americans could sting in other countries still awaiting the first doses of the vaccine. South Africa, for example, ordered 31 million doses of the vaccine, but only two million people received it.

In a maintenance with CNBC last month, an executive at Johnson & Johnson said the company aims to produce 500 to 600 million doses globally by 2021.

It remains to be seen how long the high levels of antibodies produced by the booster will last. “We don’t have long-term human studies, but my prediction would be that these responses should be sustained after the boost,” Dr Coughlan said.

Noah Weiland contributed reports.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Second dose of J.&J vaccine gives a boost, company reports show
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