Johnson & Johnson’s long-awaited vaccine appears to protect against COVID-19 with one hit – not as strong as some double-barreled rivals but still potentially useful for a world inurgent need for more doses.
J&J said Friday that in the United States and seven other countries, the single-injection vaccine was 66% effective overall in preventing moderate to severe disease and much more protective – 85% – against more severe symptoms.
There was some geographic variation. The vaccine performed better in the United States – 72% effective against moderate to severe COVID-19 – compared to 57% in South Africa, where it faced a vaccine that was easier to spread.mutated virus.
“Playing with just one dose was definitely worth it,” Dr. Mathai Mammen, head of global research for the J & J’s Janssen pharmaceutical unit, told The Associated Press.
With vaccinations off to a rocky start globally, experts were relying on a single-dose vaccine that would increase scarce stocks and avoid the logistical nightmare of getting people to come back for boosters.
But since some other competing vaccines have been shown to be 95% effective after two doses, the question is whether a little less protection is an acceptable compromise to get more vaccines into the guns quickly.
The company said within a week it would file for emergency use in the United States and then overseas. It expects to deliver 100 million doses to the United States by June, and expects to have some ready for shipment as soon as authorities give the green light.
These are the preliminary results of a study of 44,000 volunteers which has not yet been completed. Researchers tracked diseases from 28 days after vaccination – around the time, if participants were given a two-dose variety instead, they would have needed another vaccine.
After day 28, no one who was vaccinated required hospitalization or died regardless of whether they were exposed to “regular COVID or these particularly nasty variants,” Mammen said. When the vaccinees got infected, they got milder illness.
Beating the scourge that has killed more than 2 million people worldwide will require immunizing billions of people, and the vaccines rolled out so far in different countries both require two doses within weeks of each other for full protection. . Early data is mixed on how exactly all of the different types work, butphotos taken by Pfizer and Modernaappear to be about 95% protective after the second dose.
But amid the shortages, some countries have advised delaying the second dose of some vaccines with little data on how this would affect protection.
The peak gene
All COVID-19 vaccines train the body to recognize the new coronavirus, usually by spotting the spikey protein that covers it. But they are made in very different ways.
J & J’s shot uses a cold virus like a Trojan horse to carry the spike gene around the body, where cells make harmless copies of the protein to prime the immune system in case the real virus does arise.
Rival AstraZeneca makes a similar cold virus vaccine that requires two doses. AstraZeneca and J&J vaccines can be stored in a refrigerator, making them easier to ship and use in developing countries than the frozen type manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna.
It’s unclear how well the AstraZeneca version, which is used in Britain and several other countries, works. Tests in Britain, South Africa and Brazil suggest that two doses are around 70% effective, although there are questions about how well the elderly are protected. An ongoing US study may provide more information.
J&J said his vaccine worked consistently in a wide range of people: One-third of participants were over 60 and more than 40% had other illnesses that put them at risk for severe COVID-19, including obesity, diabetes and HIV.
J&J said the vaccine was safe, with reactions similar to other COVID-19 injections, such as fever, that occur when the immune system is reactivated.
Although it released a few details, the company said there were no serious allergic reactions. But sometimes other COVID-19 vaccines trigger such reactions, which can be reversed if treated quickly – and authorities have warned people to be on the lookout for whatever type of vaccine is used.
J&J had hedged its bets with a study of a two-dose version of its vaccine, which is still ongoing.
Friday’s interim results follow another vaccine in final testing.Novavaxreported this week that its vaccine appears to be 89% effective in a UK study, and that it also appears to work – but not as well – against new mutated versions of the virus circulating in Britain and South Africa. A larger study in the United States and Mexico is still recruiting volunteers.
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