Johnson & Johnson‘s one-shot Covid vaccine is highly effective against the Indian variant — even after eight months.
The American drug giant said there was only a small drop in potency against the ‘Delta’ variant compared to earlier versions of the virus.
The findings – in line with how other vaccines have fared against the mutant strain – will reassure the 11million Americans who have been jabbed with J&J’s shot.
There had been concerns that the rapid rise of the Indian variant in the US – where it makes up half of cases – could derail the country’s hugely successful vaccine rollout.
But the fact Britain has managed to keep deaths and hospital rates low despite the variant surging there has given confidence that the crisis can be kept under control.
The majority of the world’s approved vaccines have now been shown to be highly effective at preventing serious illness from the strain.
J&J’s results were described in a press release and the New Jersey firm said two studies had been submitted to medical journals for publication.
Experts took blood samples from vaccinated people and exposed them to the Delta variant before testing the levels of antibodies that were produced.
Britain has ordered 20million doses of the vaccine and they are expected to arrive later this year.
Johnson & Johnson ‘s single-dose Covid vaccine has finally been authorised for use by the UK medicines regulator but it will not be available until later this year
Antibodies are a key part of the immune response to Covid and a critical indicator of how likely someone is to be protected.
J&J said there were high levels of the virus-fighting proteins even in candidates who had been jabbed eight months ago in its initial trials.
The company also found that one of its jab generated neutralising antibodies – which fight against variants of concern and increase over time.
It said people had more of these antibodies – that fight against the Indian, South Africa, Brazil and Kent strains – eight months after being jabbed than they did 28 days after having the vaccine.
Additionally, the data showed that a strong immune and T-cell response lasted at least that length of time as well, including CD8+ T-cells that find and destroy infected cells.
An earlier trial by J&J found that a single dose of its vaccine was 85 per cent effective at preventing severe disease from Covid. It also reduces the risk of being hospitalised or dying from the virus among all age groups.
‘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.’
J&J revealed that its vaccine was less effective against the South African Beta strain, which although spreading in low numbers in the UK and US, is thought to be the next looming variant.
This is because it has the most vaccine resistance abilities, meaning it could rise when populations are fully immunised and push other strains out.
However, J&J stressed that its vaccine provides protection against all if the so-called ‘variants of concern’.
Britain originally ordered 30million doses of the Johnson and Johnson, or Janssen, vaccine but its order has been reduced to 20million
Covid now just ‘a bad cold’ thanks to vaccines
Covid is now more like a ‘bad cold’ thanks to the effect of vaccines, a top epidemiologist has claimed after data showed symptoms of the disease are becoming milder across the board despite rising cases.
King’s College London‘s Covid symptom study estimated there were 25,210 new cases every day in the UK last week, up by almost a third (31 per cent) from the previous seven-day spell.
It said there was a 50 per cent increase in the number of partially or fully vaccinated people catching the virus — but in most cases their symptoms were mild. More than 80 per cent of infections were among the unvaccinated.
Professor Tim Spector, who leads Britain’s biggest Covid surveillance study, said people catching the virus after being vaccinated suffered a milder form of the disease similar to a cold, with sneezing emerging as a new symptom.
‘While rates of Covid infection are high, it’s reassuring to see vaccinations protecting the vulnerable and deaths remain very low,’ he said.
ZOE Covid study data shows symptoms are more mild and are similar to those of a bad cold, with a runny nose, headache and a sore throat among the top symptoms for all groups. Sneezing has also emerged as a symptom among partially and fully vaccinated people.’
Doses are expected to arrive in the UK sometime this autumn after getting approval from the medicines regulator in late May.
The vaccine can be given to people aged 18 and over and is likely to be used as a booster jab for care home residents ahead of winter because it can be easily stored and transported at fridge temperatures.
The UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will issue advice on exactly who should receive the Belgian-made jab before its officially deployed.
There is a chance it could be restricted in younger age groups because of its link to extremely rare blood clots.
Like AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine, which is not being used in under-40s in Britain for the same reason, the J&J shot uses adenovirus technology to stimulate the immune system.
This appears to trigger a devastating immune overreaction in a tiny number of people, mostly young and healthy.
Trials have shown the vaccine – which US regulators approved in February – to be 67 per cent effective at blocking Covid symptoms from earlier forms of Covid. Other studies have shown it is even better at preventing patients falling severely ill.
No10’s Vaccine Taskforce originally secured 30million doses of the vaccine last year, based on predicted demand at the time.
But because of the huge success of UK’s vaccination programme, ministers reduced their order to 20m.
The vaccine can be stored at fridge temperatures, between 2-8°C. It only takes three weeks for the jab to kick in and train the immune system to fight off Covid. But, like any vaccine, it is not perfect.
In April, the European Medicines Agency ruled that the jab should come with a clear warning about a serious blood clotting disorder. It made the same recommendation for AstraZeneca’s jab.
Both vaccines have been linked to serious blood clots that have occurred alongside abnormally low blood platelet count, known as thrombocytopaenia.
The decision was made following eight cases of the disorder in more than 7million people vaccinated in the US. Updated figures show the J&J jab has now been linked to 28 cases from more than 10.4million shots.
In April, the firm itself asked Europe to pause the roll-out of the jab to allow experts to probe the clot cases thoroughly. It later concluded the risk was rare and urged all countries to keep using it.
Officials insist the disorder — the same as the one seen in AstraZeneca’s vaccine — is extremely rare but seems to be happening slightly more often in young people who have been vaccinated.
J&J say the vaccine works across multiple variants of coronavirus but there is no firm proof yet that it beats the Indian strain.
It comes after health chiefs in the UK scrapped their weekly update on the spread of the Indian variant now that vaccines have been proven extremely effective at neutralising it.
Public Health England (PHE) said it would now offer fortnightly reports now that the mutant strain is behind virtually all new cases.
The agency claimed that the ‘clinical risk assessment’ of the Delta variant had changed, adding that there was little reason for the constant updates.
Confidence in the jabs has grown because Covid admissions and fatalities have been almost completely flat despite the variant infecting over 20,000 people in Britain a day.
The highly infectious Indian variant is now behind more than 95 per cent of cases in Britain after becoming the dominant strain in just two months.
PHE’s move today is the first hint that officials are prepared to tweak the way Covid stats are presented.
And it comes amid growing pressure for the daily death and infection figures to be dropped, with fed up MPs and scientists earlier this week saying they were becoming obsolete and serve only to ‘frighten’.
Even the Government’s own experts are calling for the change, with vaccine adviser Professor Robert Dingwall saying it is ‘well past time to panic about infection rates and to publish them obsessively’.
Cabinet ministers today said it would make it appear as if they have ‘something to hide’ if the numbers were to suddenly be dropped.
The Department of Health has been publishing the daily figures for the last 16 months as the nation has battled through the Covid pandemic.
Q&A: ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT COVID VACCINES AND THEIR TINY RISK OF BLOOD CLOTS
IS THERE ANY PROOF THE JAB CAUSES THE BLOOD CLOTS?
Scientists have repeatedly insisted there is no proof yet that coronavirus vaccines cause the extremely rare complication — blood clots occurring alongside low platelet levels.
But officials are still investigating the link — found in recipients of both AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson’s vaccines — and can’t rule it out completely.
DO SCIENTISTS HAVE A THEORY FOR WHAT MAY BE THE LINK?
Experts are stumped as to why the vaccines may be triggering blockages in very rare cases.
But researchers in Germany believe the problem lies in the adenovirus vector — a common cold virus used so both vaccines can enter the body.
Academics investigating the issue say the complication is ‘completely absent’ in mRNA vaccines like Pfizer’s and Moderna’s because they have a different delivery mechanism.
Experts at Goethe-University of Frankfurt and Ulm University, in Helmholtz, say the AstraZeneca vaccine enters the nucleus of the cell – a blob of DNA in the middle. For comparison, the Pfizer jab enters the fluid around it that acts as a protein factory.
Bits of coronavirus proteins that get inside the nucleus can break up and the unusual fragments then get expelled out into the bloodstream, where they can trigger clotting in a tiny number of people, scientists claim.
WHAT SYMPTOMS DO THEY CAUSE?
The EMA said symptoms can strike up to three weeks post-vaccination.
British regulators say the complication tends to occur four days after people first get jabbed.
Symptoms of the two blood clots can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Swollen legs
- Persistent stomach pain
- Severe or persistent headache
- Blurred vision
- Skin bruising beyond the site of injection