Johnson & Johnson said Friday that its single-dose vaccine was 66 percent effective against COVID-19 in a large global multi-variant study, which will give health officials another weapon in combating the coronavirus.
In the study of nearly 44,000 volunteers, levels of protection against moderate and severe COVID-19 varied between 72 percent in the US, 66 percent in Latin America, and only 57 percent in South Africa, from where a worrying variant has spread.
Two approved vaccines from Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna have set the bar high, which in two-dose pivotal studies were 95 percent effective at preventing symptomatic disease.
However, these trials were mainly conducted in the United States before new variants emerged.
J & J’s primary goal was the prevention of moderate to severe COVID-19, and the vaccine was 85 percent effective in stopping serious illness and preventing hospitalizations in all regions and against multiple variants 28 days after immunization.
This “will potentially protect hundreds of millions of people from the serious and fatal consequences of COVID-19,” said Paul Stoffels, J & J’s chief scientist, in a statement with the results based on 468 symptomatic cases.
J&J plans to seek emergency clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration next week. It has announced that it will dispense 1 billion doses by 2021 and manufacture the vaccine in the United States, Europe, South Africa and India.
Public health officials have turned to the J&J vaccine to increase the much-needed supply and simplify the US vaccination campaign.
The United States has a contract to purchase 100 million doses of the vaccine from J&J and an option for an additional 200 million. J&J said the vaccine would be ready immediately after emergency approval, but Stoffels declined to indicate how many doses.
“Right now, any protection and additional vaccine is great,” said Walid Gellad, associate professor of health policy at the University of Pittsburgh.
“The ‘South Africa’ strain is still uncommon in the US and of course we would like to see higher efficacy, but the key is not just overall efficacy, but especially efficacy against serious illness, hospitalization and death,” added Gellad
None of the vaccine recipients in the J&J study died from COVID-19, compared to 5 deaths in the placebo group, according to the National Institutes of Health.
The NIH said there were three total deaths in the vaccine group, but none were determined to be virus-related. This compares to a total of 16 deaths in the placebo arm.
Unlike Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, J & Js don’t require a second shot weeks after the first or must be stored frozen. This makes them a strong candidate for use in parts of the world where transportation and cold storage are an issue.
Several studies appeared this month showing that a South African variant has mutated in areas of the virus that are primary targets for vaccines, reducing its effectiveness.
“We’re learning that there are different efficacies in different parts of the world,” Stoffels told Reuters.
In a sub-study of 6,000 volunteers in South Africa, Stoffels said, the J&J vaccine was 89 percent effective in preventing serious diseases. In the South African part of the study, 95 percent of the cases were infections with the South African variant.
“I am overwhelmed by the fact that this vaccine is also protected against serious diseases in South Africa,” said Glenda Gray, the joint lead investigator of the South African vaccine study.
Gray, the executive director of the South African Medical Research Council, said this was by far the best vaccine for South Africa to control the mutant strain and could prevent large numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.
An interim study of a Novovax coronavirus vaccine in South Africa also showed lower effectiveness and was found to be 60 percent effective in volunteers without HIV. At a separate late stage in the UK, it was 89.3 percent effective.
In the J&J study, which was conducted in eight countries, 44 percent of the participants were from the United States, 41 percent from Central and South America, and 15 percent from South Africa. Just over a third of the volunteers were over 60 years old.
J & J’s vaccine uses a cold virus to introduce coronavirus proteins into cells in the body and trigger an immune response, while Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna’s vaccines use a new technology called messenger RNA (mRNA).
The news of another safe and effective vaccine comes as the US surpasses 430,000 COVID-19 deaths and hospitals in many states struggle to keep up with patients despite the recent decline in new infections.
(This story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)