Study: Johnson & Johnson Vaccine May Not be Highly Effective Against Delta Variant

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A new study suggests that those who received the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine may need a booster to help their bodies combat the delta and lambda variants of the pathogen.

The study was published online in a preprint — meaning it has not yet been peer-reviewed — journal BioRxiv on Tuesday. Researchers at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine tested blood samples drawn from people who had received the three coronavirus vaccines that the U.S. has approved for use in this country and found them to be less effective in the J&J version than the other two, Moderna and Pfizer.

The distinction is important given that the delta variant is now the source of 83% of all COVID-19 cases in the country, Forbes reported Tuesday, citing U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

“This is a dramatic increase, up from 50% for the week of July 3,” Walensky said in a Senate committee hearing, according to CNN.

More than 13 million people have received the Johnson & Johnson jab, a fraction of the 161.5 million who have been fully vaccinated, Forbes noted.

While smaller studies by Johnson & Johnson have indicated the one dose is effective even after eight months, this study’s findings are consistent with observations of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which shows just a 33% protection rate against symptomatic illness, The New York Times reported. Both of those are based on different technology than the Moderna and Pfizer shots.

“The message that we wanted to give was not that people shouldn’t get the J&J vaccine, but we hope that in the future it will be boosted with either another dose of J&J or a boost with Pfizer or Moderna,” study lead author Nathaniel Landau, a virologist at Grossman, told the Times.

Nonetheless, the mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna seem to be the better bet when it comes to protecting against variants, the study implied.

It may be that Johnson & Johnson should have been a double-dose vaccine after all, Weill Cornell Medicine virologist John Moore told The New York Times.

However, on July 1, the company said it had determined that its single-shot COVID-19 vaccine did indeed protect against the delta variant, according to a statement.

“We should think about the delta variant as the 2020 version of COVID-19 on steroids,” Andy Slavitt, a former senior adviser to President Joe Biden’s COVID Response Team, told CNN. “It’s twice as infectious. Fortunately, unlike 2020, we actually have a tool that stops the delta variant in its tracks: It’s called vaccine.”

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