At a time when experts and governments are gradually turning on the "green light" for the administration of the third dose of the vaccine to vulnerable groups and individuals who require booster shots to increase their antibody levels, where do we stand with the Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine?
The New York Times received hundreds of questions from readers: "Should the people who got the J&J vaccine get a booster dose?" "I got this vaccine in March, what should I do?" I'm afraid "," What are the instructions? ".
The issue of the necessity of a booster shot was raised in the US for both Pfizer and Moderna and had been the subject of studies conducted by US authorities. Both these mRNA-based vaccines used in the United States require 2 doses and now an additional booster shot to raise antiboday levels after a period of time.
The situation is more murky with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which uses viral vector technology. According to NYT, the J&J vaccine has not received as much attention because only 8% of vaccinated Americans have taken the drug. However, we are talking about 14 million people and many of them are in need of guidance.
How effective is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?
From the beginning, it seemed to be less effective than the other two vaccines licensed in the United States. In fact, the data show that the gap may increase over time, due to the Delta variant. "All the evidence we have shows that J&J is less effective at blocking both infections and hospitalizations," said Dr. Michael Lynn of Stanford University.
About one in 20,000 people vaccinated with J&J in Colorado were treated with Covid at some point, according to statistics by type of vaccine. For Pfizer, the rate was one in 27,000 and for Moderna one in 32,000. Of course, any of these chances remain extremely low. Dr Linda-Gale Becker of the University of Cape Town, who led a recent study, told the Times: "However, giving people even more protection from a serious Covid is of immense value".
Data for the second installment of J&J
With many vaccines, not just Covid, multiple doses are the norm.
The fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the company's vaccine as a single dose did not provide an answer as to whether a possible second dose would provide further protection. The approval was given because the data showed that the vaccine was quite effective after one dose and the experts urgently wanted the Covid vaccines to be used immediately.
Possibility of administering an alternative booster dose
Many people vaccinated with J&J are less interested in getting a second dose than those who may need a third dose of a mRNA vaccine. Based on lower efficacy rates and reports of very rare thrombosis cases, there are concerns.
At the same time, it is worth noting that many doctors and some prominent specialists who received this vaccine themselves then chose a dose of Moderna or Pfizer. The list includes biotechnologist Bill Enright, Joey McLaren and Angela Rasmussen, a renowned virologist. At the same time, the city of San Francisco also began providing booster shots of Moderna or Pfizer to those who received the single-dose vaccine.
There may be little data on these vaccine combinations so far, but there is evidence for another related combination. The AstraZeneca vaccine - which is available in many countries but not in the US - is similar in design to J&J. Many people in Europe and Canada first received the AstraZeneca vaccine, followed by the Pfizer vaccine, and are doing well.
This approach is sometimes described as "Mix & Match" and humans receive immunity benefits from two different types of vaccines.
"I think I did the right thing to make sure I was as protected as possible from the Delta variant," Rasmussen wrote in June. "Sometimes public health requires tough decisions without a complete set of data to support it."
Can I take a booster dose (US)?
This is a difficult question. Even if you want to do the so-called booster dose, the US government has not approved it and doctors generally said no to patients who asked for it.
Many people are frustrated with the situation: Some experts urge you to follow the plan, highlighting the scientific evidence, while some doctors have their own opinion and don't think it's necessary.
However, if you go to the doctor's office and ask for a second (or third) dose, you will probably receive a "no". One can feel as if there are set rules for people with financial means and something different for everyone else.
The available data suggest that those vaccinated with J&J will benefit from the booster dose (Moderna or Pfizer). So far there are no signs of worrying side effects. And the Delta variant is an even greater threat to human life.