Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine booster studies show promise: NPR

A healthcare professional is holding doses of J&J vaccines at the Gandhi Phoenix Settlement in Bhambayi township, South Africa, on 24 September. A study of the J&J booster shot in the country had promising results against the omicron variant.

Rajesh Jantilal / AFP via Getty Images


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Rajesh Jantilal / AFP via Getty Images


A healthcare professional is holding doses of J&J vaccines at the Gandhi Phoenix Settlement in Bhambayi township, South Africa, on 24 September. A study of the J&J booster shot in the country had promising results against the omicron variant.

Rajesh Jantilal / AFP via Getty Images

Two new studies of a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine booster showed promise against the omicron variant at a time when public health officials are urgently recommending booster shots against the fast-spreading variant.

A survey was conducted in about 69,000 healthcare professionals in South Africa. The results showed that the vaccine reduced hospital admissions by 85% when comparing individuals receiving two doses of the J&J vaccine with individuals receiving a single dose.

Unlike Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which require two initial doses before a booster six months later, Johnson & Johnson is a single shot that can be followed by a booster dose after at least two months for people 18 years and older.

The booster survey was done at a time when omicron was the dominant variant in South Africa.

“These data should reassure healthcare professionals who have not taken their booster to be vaccinated as soon as possible,” said Dr. Nicholas Crisp, Deputy Director – General of the South African National Ministry of Health.

Another study from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston found that blood from individuals who had received booster doses of the J&J vaccine had strong immune responses to omicron in the laboratory – even stronger than the response produced by a booster dose of the Pfizer COVID vaccine. The stronger the immune response in the laboratory, the more likely the vaccine will prove to be effective in preventing serious illness in the real world.

None of the studies have yet appeared in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Booster shots by Pfizer and Moderna have been shown to be crucial in protecting against serious disease with omicron, which causes a high rate of breakthrough infections among people who have been vaccinated. Non-vaccinated people have a much higher risk of hospitalization and death.

However, it is still unclear how long the booster protection lasts.

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