Health officials answered months of questions when they recently announced that COVID-19 vaccine boosters would be made available for the general public. But the decision to recommend a third dose of mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer or Moderna at eight months also left those who got a single-shot vaccine with questions about when they might need to get an extra shot. Now, new research from Johnson & Johnson has found that getting a booster at least six months after your initial dose can help bolster the immune system.
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The data comes from Phase 2 studies conducted by the pharmaceutical company that tested the antibodies of around 2,000 people who got a vaccine booster six months after their first shot. The additional dose generated a powerful immune response in participants in the study between the ages of 18 and 55, as well as in patients 65 and older when they were given a lower dosage as a booster shot.
“New interim data from these studies demonstrate that a booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine generated a rapid and robust increase in spike-binding antibodies, nine-fold higher than 28 days after the primary single-dose vaccination,” the company said in its statement.
The company now plans to submit data from the study to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for authorization to be administered as a booster shot. If approved, the additional shots could start rolling out along with Pfizer and Moderna in September for anyone who received their initial doses eight months earlier.
“We have established that a single shot of our COVID-19 vaccine generates strong and robust immune responses that are durable and persistent through eight months. With these new data, we also see that a booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine further increases antibody responses among study participants who had previously received our vaccine,” Mathai Mammen, MD, global head of research and development for Janssen, said in the statement released by the company. “We look forward to discussing with public health officials a potential strategy for our Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, boosting eight months or longer after the primary single-dose vaccination.”
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The company’s statement did not mention the vaccine’s efficacy levels after the booster or its effectiveness against new strains such as the Delta variant. But in a recent study from South Africa released on August 6 found, it was found that a single shot was 95 percent effective in preventing death and 71 percent effective at preventing hospitalization from infection with the Delta variant.
Vaccine experts weighed in on the company’s initial statement, with one expressing optimism that the second shot would be an effective defense against COVID. “The boost at six months is going to look very impressive and substantially greater than what has already been reported in terms of the two-month boost, and that is significant because, in my opinion, the boost should not be at two months, but it really should be at six months or later,” Dan Barouch, MD, a vaccine researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School who was not involved in the J&J study, told CNN.
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Barouch also went on to allay initial doubts that a J&J booster would be ineffective due to its design. “There was a theoretical concern that the generation of anti-vector antibodies by the first shot could impede the use of it again,” he told CNN. “I think these data put that to rest.”
When asked about the approval process for the additional shot, Barouch remained confident that it would be seen through. “I’m quite certain that the FDA, [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] CDC, [National Institutes of Health] NIH, and White House will use these data to likely justify or recommend a booster for J&J-vaccinated people, probably with a second shot of J&J,” he said.
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