J. & J. Booster protects against heavy omicrons, study says

J. & J. Booster protects against heavy omicrons, study says

According to a clinical study in South Africa, a booster vaccination from Johnson & Johnson offered strong protection against the Omicron variant and significantly reduced the risk of hospitalization.

The study, which compared more than 69,000 health care workers with an equivalent group of unvaccinated South Africans, found that two shots of the vaccine reduced the risk of Omicron hospitalization by about 85 percent. By comparison, another study in South Africa found that two vaccinations of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine reduced the risk of hospitalization by about 70 percent.

Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as a booster, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that other vaccines be preferred. The CDC has raised concerns about the rare but life-threatening blood clots that have been linked to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

However, the authors of the new study, which has been published on a preprint server and not yet peer-reviewed, said the results were important to vaccination efforts in Africa, where the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a mainstay of Covid’s public health effort is . As the continent prepares for a wave of Omicron cases, a second dose of the vaccine could prevent a surge in hospital admissions.

In another clinical study that ended in September, when Delta was still the dominant variant worldwide, Johnson & Johnson found that a second dose of its vaccine given eight weeks after the first significantly increased its effectiveness. In the US arm of the study, the effectiveness against mild to severe Covid-19 increased to 94 percent, compared to 74 percent for an injection. At trial sites in 10 countries, the vaccine protected all volunteers from serious illnesses.

These results prompted South Africa to start a study in November of health care workers who had received a dose of the vaccine six to nine months earlier. When the Omicron variant appeared across South Africa in late November, the researchers who conducted the study began tracking how senior health care workers had fared against the variant and found that it worked well.

This result came as a bit of a surprise, as antibodies from people who had received a dose of the vaccine did not prevent Omicron from infecting cells in laboratory experiments.

It is possible that the booster shot raised antibodies to protective levels. And while antibodies help the body fight infection, they’re just one of many parts of the immune system.

Certain immune cells help fight Covid by attacking virus-infected cells. In a study published online Tuesday, South African researchers found that immune cells from people who received Johnson & Johnson vaccines recognized Omicron-infected cells almost as well as cells infected with other variants.

It is possible that Johnson & Johnson booster vaccinations not only increase antibodies, but also increase the army of immune cells that can wage war against Omicron.

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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

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