J&J vaccine booster protects against severe omicron illness hospitalization, company says

Johnson & Johnson has announced that its vaccine and a booster shot protect people against severe cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19 and hospitalization.

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J&J released two reports that show the effectiveness of its vaccine in the fight against the coronavirus, CNN reported.

A real-life study from South Africa said that the J&J vaccine was 85% effective against hospitalization, even after the omicron variant appeared.

The study examined results from 69,000 health care workers in South Africa.

“When a booster shot was administered six to nine months after a primary single dose, vaccine effectiveness increased over time from 63 percent at 0-13 days, to 84 percent at 14-27 days and 85 percent at 1-2 months post-boost,” J&J said in a statement.

The company said it was encouraged by the results, CNN reported. But researchers said the study had limitations, for instance, short follow-up times — 8 days on average for those who received the booster in the previous 13 days, or 32 days for those who received boosters one to two months prior, Reuters reported.

A second study, which was lab-based and performed in the U.S., showed that the vaccine encourages a strong T-cell response, protecting people from a severe case of the illness, even if they are infected by COVID-19, CNN reported.

The second study, which was conducted by researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston used the blood of 65 volunteers who were vaccinated and tested it against the omicron variant, looking closely at antibodies and T-cells.

In cases where the J&J shot was used as a booster in patients who first had Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine, they had a 41-fold increase in antibodies and a five-fold increase in T-cells, CNN reported.

The Pfizer and J&J results were compared to results in people who got only Pfizer as the three-shot series, ABC News reported.

After four weeks, the Pfizer and J&J regimen resulted in a 17-fold increase in antibodies and a 1.4-fold increase in T-cells.

The studies were released by J&J as part of a pre-print release, CNN reported. The results have not yet been peer-reviewed, Reuters reported.

Linda-Gail Bekker, the South African study co-lead investigator, said the jury was “still out” on J&J additional booster shots, Reuters reported.

“What we are showing is that two doses restore full protection, and I don’t think we can extrapolate from this that we are going to need a third or fourth boost at all,” Bekker said.

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