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‘Reassuring’ Data Shows Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Remains ‘Durable and Effective’ Against COVID-19

‘Reassuring’ Data Shows Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Remains ‘Durable and Effective’ Against COVID-19

A study published Thursday in the medical journal JAMA Network Open found that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine remains durable and effective, even through the surge of cases caused by the Delta variant. It was 76% effective overall in preventing Covid-19 infections and 81% effective in preventing Covid-related hospitalizations. The study also showed that it provided lasting immunity at least six months after the shots.

Made by Janssen, a division of Johnson & Johnson, the vaccine was initially underestimated by the American public and even some health experts. The J&J vaccine was the third to be authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in March of 2021, and the initial response was more muted than the milestone authorizations of the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. But new data points to emerging evidence that the J & J vaccine and its subsequent boosters could still play an important role in the fight against COVID that still lays ahead. The protection that the Covid-19 vaccines offered has waned over time, and none of them works as well against the variants that have popped up since the original coronavirus surfaced. But the science is starting to show that people who got the J&J vaccine may have some advantages.

 

Unvaccinated people still remain particularly vulnerable to getting sick during the Omicron and Delta surges, just as they were with the original version of the coronavirus. They were 3.2 times as likely to get sick as people who had the J&J vaccine. The unvaccinated were 2.8 times as likely to become infected than those who got Moderna and 2.4 times as likely as those who got Pfizer. In January, during the Omicron surge, breakthrough infections were highest among those who received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, followed by those who got Moderna. Those vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson shot had the lowest incidence of breakthrough infections. [Writer’s disclosure: I received the J & J vaccine in March 2021 and their booster in October 2021, and haven’t had so much as a stuffy nose, knock wood]

Aside from working differently than the other vaccines, J&J’s stood out for other reasons, too: It came as a convenient single dose and didn’t require special refrigeration, whereas the mRNA vaccines required two doses, and Pfizer’s needed special cold storage. The flexibility was appealing for people who were afraid of shots or didn’t have the time to get two shots. It was also better for countries without a solid health care infrastructure. But despite a small risk factor for blood clots in patients who were prone to clots, the federal government briefly paused its use due to safety concerns around rare blood clotting events. Even once vaccinations resumed, the pace of J&J vaccinations never recovered. But an as-yet-unpublished study by the National Institutes of Health looking at a mix-and-match vaccine strategy saw good results when J&J was included.

 

As of the week ending January 22nd, there were 650 infections per 100,000 people with the J&J vaccine. With Moderna, there were 757 per 100,000, and with Pfizer, the rate was 862 per 100,000.

 

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