J. & J. Booster Protects Against Severe Omicron, Study Finds

A Johnson & Johnson booster provided strong protection against the Omicron variant, significantly reducing the risk of hospitalizati...


A Johnson & Johnson booster provided strong protection against the Omicron variant, significantly reducing the risk of hospitalization, according to a clinical trial in South Africa.

The study, who compared more than 69,000 boosted health workers to a corresponding group of unvaccinated South Africans, found that two shots of the vaccine reduced Omicron’s risk of hospitalization by about 85%. In comparison, another study in South Africa found that two injections of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine reduced the risk of hospitalization by approximately 70 percent.

Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has cleared the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as a booster shot, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that other vaccines be preferred. CDC raised concerns rare but potentially fatal blood clots that have been linked to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

But the authors of the new study, which has been posted on a preprint server and has yet to be peer reviewed, said the findings were important to vaccination efforts in Africa, where the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a pillar of Covid’s public health efforts. As the continent braces for a wave of Omicron cases, a second dose of the vaccine could prevent a wave of hospitalizations.

In a different clinical trial that ended in September, when Delta was still the dominant variant in the world, Johnson & Johnson found that a second dose of its vaccine given eight weeks after the first considerably increased its efficiency. In the American arm of the trial, the efficacy against mild to severe Covid-19 increased to 94%, compared to 74% for an injection. At trial sites in 10 countries, the vaccine protected all volunteers from serious illness.

The results prompted South Africa to launch a trial in November among health workers who had already received a dose of the vaccine six to nine months earlier. When the Omicron variant began to hit South Africa in late November, the researchers who conducted the trial began tracking healthcare workers’ progress against the variant, finding that it worked well.

This result was somewhat surprising, given that antibodies taken from people who received a dose of the vaccine failed to prevent Omicron from infecting cells in laboratory experiments.

It is possible that the booster injections raised the antibodies to protective levels. And while antibodies help the body fend off infections, they’re just one of many parts of the immune system.

Certain immune cells help fight Covid by attacking cells infected with the virus. In a study posted on Tuesday, South African researchers found that immune cells taken from people who received Johnson & Johnson vaccines recognized cells infected with Omicron almost as well as they recognized cells infected with other variants.

It is possible that in addition to increasing antibodies, Johnson & Johnson’s booster shots also increase the army of immune cells that can wage war on Omicron.

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Newsrust - US Top News: J. & J. Booster Protects Against Severe Omicron, Study Finds
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