Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Less Effective Against Delta Variant

According to a study done by a team of New York University researchers, the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine showed to be much less effective at preventing COVID-19 infections from the Delta variant and other mutations, including the Lambda variant.

This study was done using blood samples from people who have received one of the three major COVID vaccines. However, this study has not yet been peer reviewed or published in a scientific journal and, due to the fact that this was studied in a lab, may not reflect the performance of the vaccine in real world situations. These findings are consistent with those of the AstraZeneca vaccine, a vaccine that has a very similar mechanism to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which showed about 33 percent efficacy against symptomatic disease via Delta variant. The study with AstraZeneca showed that a second dose brought efficacy up to 60 percent. 

Nathaniel Landau, a virologist at the Grossman School of Medicine at N.Y.U., who led the study stated: “The message that we wanted to give was not that people shouldn’t get the J.& J. vaccine, but we hope that in the future, it will be boosted with either another dose of J&J. or a boost with Pfizer or Moderna,”. Dr. Landau, along with many others, agree that there should be a consideration for a second dose or booster for these single-dose vaccinations. 

Earlier this month, Johnson & Johnson released preliminary data which indicated that its vaccine was effective against the Delta variant for at least eight months post inoculation. The spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson stated that the data from these studies “do not speak to the full nature of immune protection.” in retaliation. 

The CDC and the FDA are still holding to their original sentiments, that a booster at this time is not needed. Dr. Rocelle Walensky, director of the CDC, told the Today show “we have every reason to believe[…]that the J&J will perform well against the Delta variant, as it has so far against other variants circulating the United States,”. While the FDA have said “Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time,” and they are unlikely to change their recommendations based on these lab studies. Dr. Landau hopes that his findings in this research paper will encourage the CDC and FDA to make considerations sooner. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that researchers are still assessing whether or not a booster will be necessary, but is worried that the necessity of a booster may cause people to believe that the vaccines are ineffective. He wants to highlight that the need for a booster is about durability, not effectiveness. 

Though the numbers are much lower than last winter’s surge, the Delta variant has been spreading far and fast and has caused a drastic increase in new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the past weeks, with most of these cases coming from unvaccinated people.