It is surprising for two reasons. One is that the J&J vaccine has been Snakebit from the start, finding stumbling blocks ranging from a rare blood-clotting side effect in some recipients to a massive production error that spoiled tens of millions of doses at the factory. We are not used to receiving good news about it.
The most important reason is that J&J is a single dose and single injections of the other vaccines have been given. weak against variant B.1.617 “Delta”. Not only that, J&J uses the the same “viral vector” vaccine strategy that AstraZeneca does and AZ has been shown in studies to work poorly against Delta after just one dose. (Unlike J&J, it is a two-shot vaccine.) That’s why the UK, which initially delayed second doses for much of its population, has been fighting for everyone to get their second injections for the past six weeks as Delta has spread across the country. An AZ shot just doesn’t hack it against B.1.617.
And if an injection of that viral vector vaccine doesn’t hack you, it’s understandable to assume that a J&J shot isn’t going to hack it, either.
Some scientists were so concerned about the risk of Johnson & Johnson failing against Delta that they decided to recommend a booster from Pfizer or Moderna. Remember, J&J is somewhat less effective than mRNA vaccines in preventing infection with the parent coronavirus. It was anyone’s guess how much more that efficacy could be reduced with a new hypercontagious strain. Take a look at this report from a few days ago, then read on.
Andrew Sullivan welcomed J&J initially and was alarmed enough by the new variant that he did, in fact, get a boost:
I got my first injection from Pfizer today to supplement my J&J Concerned about Delta.
– Andrew Sullivan (@sullydish) June 30, 2021
Last night, however, Johnson & Johnson cited two new (small) studies as evidence that their product actually works great to repel B.1.617. J&J recipients may not need a booster after all:
The vaccine showed a small drop in potency against the variant, compared to its effectiveness against the parent virus, the company said. But the vaccine was more effective against the Delta variant than the Beta variant, first identified in South Africa; the pattern was also seen with mRNA vaccines …
While the levels of antibodies in the blood produced after immunization with Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna decrease after an initial increase, the antibodies and immune cells stimulated by J. & J. the vaccine persisted at high levels., the researchers found. (However, other studies have shown that the immune responses elicited by mRNA vaccines are likely to last for years as well.)…
Eight months after J. & J. inoculation, The participants’ antibodies also appeared to be more effective against the variants than they had been at the one-month mark.. A participant who received a single dose became infected with the coronavirus.
So a single dose of J&J is strong enough to tackle Delta, keeping antibody levels high longer than mRNA vaccines, and it even seems to pick up steam over time. How do you manage to do that when the very similar AstraZeneca vaccine works poorly against Delta after just one dose? I have no idea. It is way above my salary level.
For what it’s worth, this same study also found that a J&J booster on itself or an mRNA vaccine raised antibody levels even more, which is what we’d expect. But since the initial regimen of a dose of J&J seems equal to the task of fighting Delta, the reinforcements may not be in order.
Which means that perhaps the snake-bitten Johnson & Johnson vaccine has an exciting second act in store for her overseas. A single injection product that is capable of handling B.1.617 is a valuable product for countries that are desperate to vaccinate their populations quickly. India just signed an agreement with J&J to produce the vaccine nationwide, In fact.
When it was first introduced, scientists hoped and hoped it would be a global game changer, a hassle-free single-dose vax that could be easily stored without expensive freezing equipment. Those hopes seemed dashed after it ran into trouble and Americans began to avoid it, but it could become a lifesaver after all in places like India and Africa, where vaccines are desperately needed. as delta progresses.
As for the United States, there is good news and bad news. The bad news is that we’re going to be a little short of the White House goal of 70 percent of adults getting vaccinated by July 4. We get closer, but there is not enough buy-in in the red states:
As of today, 67% of American adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, below the Biden White House target of 70% for July 4.
– Mark Murray (@mmurraypolitics) July 2, 2021
The good news is that vaccines are on the rise again lately, no doubt due to the fear of B.1.617:
As of yesterday, daily COVID deaths in the US dropped to an average of 263, the lowest pandemic rate ever. Happy fourth.