It was revealed on Thursday that the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine is effective against the highly contagious Delta variant even eight months after inoculation, a finding that should provide comfort to the 11 million Americans who have already received the shot.
According to the manufacturer, the vaccine’s potency against the variant virus was only marginally lower than its potency against the original virus. However, the vaccine was more effective against the Delta variant than it was against the Beta variant, which was first discovered in South Africa — a pattern that has also been observed with mRNA vaccines.
The researchers also discovered that antibodies stimulated by the vaccine gain in strength over time, according to their findings.
An announcement was made about the findings, and the company stated that both studies had been submitted for publication online on Thursday. Interestingly, one of those studies has been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Both studies are small, and the researchers stated that they chose to release the results early due to the high level of interest from the public in the subjects.
Doctor Dan Barouch, a virologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, predicted that coverage of the variants would be better than people had guessed. “There was a lot of false information being spread, so we decided that we needed to get this information into the public domain as soon as possible.”
Even those who have been immunised are concerned about whether or not they are adequately protected because of the intense debate surrounding Delta’s threat. The virus variant, which was first discovered in India, is significantly more contagious than previous versions of the virus, and its global spread has prompted new health restrictions in countries ranging from Ireland to Malaysia.
Currently, one out of every four new infections in the United States is caused by this variant of the virus. Public health officials have stated that the vaccines approved in the United States are effective against all known variants; however, the data is based primarily on studies of the mRNA vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, respectively.
As a result, some people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine began to wonder, “What about us?”
Even before the Delta variant was introduced, there was a growing sense of frustration. To give an example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance that vaccinated people could forego wearing face masks indoors in many situations was based primarily on data from monovalent RNA vaccines. The news that the J.&J. vaccine had caused a cluster of infections among players on the New York Yankees baseball team, who had all received the vaccine, did nothing to allay concerns that the vaccine was inferior to other options.
Young, who is 63 years old and lives in Mountain View, Calif., was shot on April 9 by J.&J. It was not her first choice, but it was the only option available to her at the time. But, she continued, “I’ve been extremely, extremely frustrated by the lack of information” since then.
Regarding the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, she continued, “I felt like I didn’t matter, like I was statistically insignificant because so few of us had the shot that they didn’t have to worry about us.”
Others who were immunised with the J&J vaccine expressed their dissatisfaction with experts who claimed that all vaccines were of equal quality, claiming they had been cheated. Natasha Dean, a biostatistician at the University of Florida, said she was surprised to hear that others were making the same assertion. “It didn’t sit well with me. People don’t want to be misled in any way.”
Other experts, on the other hand, believe that the clinical trials should have made it clear that the efficacy of the J.&J. vaccine was lower than that of the mRNA vaccinations. According to Florian Krammer, an immunologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, 72 percent is “clearly lower than 95 or 94 percent.”
It is difficult to compare vaccines because they were all tested individually and with different measures of success, which makes comparisons difficult. When it came to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna trials, the goal was to count symptomatic infections, whereas the Johnson & Johnson study looked at whether or not the vaccine could prevent moderate to severe infections.
Nonetheless, according to Danny Altmann, an immunologist at Imperial College London, it is clear that all vaccines are significantly more effective at keeping people out of the intensive care unit and the morgue than scientists had anticipated.
July 1, 2021, 9:25 p.m. ET
The argument is analogous to the argument between wanting a Ferrari or Porsche that goes 150 or 180 miles per hour on a street where you are only allowed to go 30 miles per hour, he said.
However, there are some differences: the J.&J. vaccine may allow for more so-called breakthrough infections — infections that occur in people who have been fully vaccinated but have only mild to no symptoms — than the mRNA vaccines do, and it may do so with fewer symptoms.
However, when routine testing picks up asymptomatic infections — as happened in the case of the Yankees cluster — and they are required to go into quarantine, they can become a problem, according to John Moore, a virologist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.
Information about the effectiveness of the J.&J. vaccine has been slow to arrive, owing to the fact that it was introduced later than anticipated and because it was halted due to concerns about rare blood clots following its introduction. Many medical centres and hospitals began offering the mRNA vaccines to their staff members early on, and were able to set up studies to evaluate the vaccines as a result.
Blood samples from people who have received the J.&J. vaccine, on the other hand, are a relatively scarce resource, according to Dr. Krammer. According to him, “it’s not that no one cares, and it’s not that we’re hiding something because the vaccine isn’t very good.” “It’s more of an accessibility issue.”
Due to a lack of data, some experts hypothesised that the Johnson & Johnson shot would perform about as well against the Delta variant as the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is widely used in Europe. However, the J.&J. shot did not meet those expectations. However, that vaccine is administered in two doses, as opposed to J.&J.’s single dose.
In addition, Dr. Altmann pointed out that “the thing that I’ve never completely understood about J.&J. is that their technology platform is essentially very, very similar — almost indistinguishable from that of AstraZeneca.” Is it really necessary to administer the vaccine in two doses as is the case with everything else?
The single dose has advantages for people who have limited access to healthcare or who do not want to take two doses for a variety of reasons. Also, the J.&J. vaccine has a longer shelf life when refrigerated than the other vaccines, which made it a welcome option earlier in the pandemic when vaccines were in short supply.
However, following the discovery of variants such as Beta and Delta that appear to partially circumvent the immune system, the debate over immune system boosters for J.&J. recipients became more heated. One dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine is significantly less effective against variants than two doses, and experts were concerned that the J.&J. shot would be similarly ineffective against variants.
Some of these concerns were addressed in the new study.
In contrast to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which produce low levels of antibodies in the blood after an initial surge, antibodies — and immune cells — stimulated by the J.&J. vaccine produce high levels of antibodies in the blood after an initial surge. It has also been demonstrated in other studies that immune responses induced by mRNA vaccines are likely to last for several years.
There has been a scarcity of information about the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, leading some to believe that it may require one dose of an mRNA vaccine in addition to the J&J vaccine. However, for the time being, people who have received the J.&J. vaccine should not require a booster, and they will not be able to legally obtain one “unless they game the system, unless they pretend they are vaccine-naive and go and get an mRNA vaccine and essentially lie,” Dr. Moore said. “And I certainly do not recommend people doing that,” Dr. Moore added.