Early data shows Johnson & Johnson vaccine works against Delta variant

Johnson & Johnson said late Thursday that preliminary data shows its single-shot vaccine is effective against the fast-spreading Delta variant of COVID-19 that was first discovered in India.

In a statement, the New Jersey-based company said that its vaccine generated an immune response against the variant that lasted at least eight months. J&J added that its vaccine caused more antibody activity against the Delta variant than against the Beta variant, which was first located in South Africa, though the dose worked against all so-called “variants of concern.”

The company said the data came from two small sub-studies that were offshoots of its original vaccine trial. Both studies, which examined vaccine recipients’ blood, had been submitted for publication.

“Today’s newly announced studies reinforce the ability of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to help protect the health of people globally,” said J&J Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Paul Stoffels in a statement. “We believe that our vaccine offers durable protection against COVID-19 and elicits neutralizing activity against the Delta variant. This adds to the robust body of clinical data supporting our single-shot vaccine’s ability to protect against multiple variants of concern.”

“Current data for the eight months studied so far show that the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine generates a strong neutralizing antibody response that does not wane; rather, we observe an improvement over time,” added Dr. Mathai Mammen, the head of research and development for Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical division. “In addition, we observe a persistent and particularly robust, durable cellular immune response. With each new dataset, we build on our solid foundation of evidence that our single-shot COVID-19 vaccine plays a critical role in ending the pandemic, which continues to evolve and pose new challenges to global health.”

Syringes filled with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a mobile vaccination site in Miami.
Syringes filled with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a mobile vaccination site in Miami.

The announcement follows an announcement earlier this week by Moderna that its mRNA vaccine had produced antibodies against several coronavirus variants, including the Delta strain, in a lab study. A separate study published in the journal Nature suggested mRNA vaccines produced by Moderna and Pfizer could provide “persistent” protection against COVID-19 for years — provided the virus doesn’t mutate too much beyond its current forms.

On Wednesday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said fully vaccinated Americans are “quite protected from the variants that we have circulating here in the United States” and reiterated that those people do not need to wear a mask.

That came on the heels of a recommendation by Los Angeles County health officials for people to resume wearing masks in indoor public spaces, regardless of their vaccination status, due to an increase in cases blamed on the variant.

Walensky also told NBC’s “Today” show that Americans who received the J&J vaccine likely don’t need to go back for a booster shot, a statement supported by the preliminary data announced Thursday.

“We have every reason to believe, based on how J&J is performing with other variants of concern – and that is quite well – and how its sister vaccine, AstraZeneca, has performed against the Delta variant in other countries … people are agreeing that they anticipate that the J&J will perform well against the Delta variant, as it has so far against other variants circulating in the United States,” she said.

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