Study finds Johnson & Johnson booster 85% effective against severe Omicron

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A South African study has found that a booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 85% effective at preventing hospitalisation from the Omicron variant. According to an AFP report, researchers compared 69,000 healthcare workers who’d been given 2 doses of the vaccine, versus a group of unvaccinated people.

The findings show that when a booster is administered between 6 and 9 months after the first dose, protection against hospitalisation increases over time, up to 85% around 2 months after the booster dose. South Africa has reported 3.4 million infections and 90,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic. According to the AFP report, around half a million of the country’s healthcare workers have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as part of clinical trials.

The latest findings may help to revive the vaccine’s reputation after the US recommended mRNA vaccines instead of Johnson & Johnson, due to the risk of rare blood clotting with the latter. Earlier lab studies also found that the viral vector vaccine activated fewer neutralising antibodies against Omicron when compared to mRNA vaccines. It’s thought that one of the reasons it’s been shown to perform better than expected in the real world could be that it provokes an increased response in cellular immunity, another part of the immune system.

Meanwhile, a smaller study carried out on 65 people at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, shows that administering a Johnson & Johnson booster after 2 doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine could provide increased protection compared to 3 doses of Pfizer. While 3 doses of Pfizer were shown to trigger high levels of antibodies, those levels began to fade after a few weeks. However, after 2 doses of Pfizer, followed by a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, antibody levels rose steadily and remained at higher levels after 4 weeks.

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Maya Taylor

A seasoned writer, with a degree in Creative Writing. Over ten years' experience in producing blog and magazine articles, news reports and website content.

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