Medical Technology

J&J Booster 85% Effective Against Omicron Hospitalization

Johnsonsburg (Reuters) The Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine booster shot is 95% effective in preventing against hospitalisation by the Omicron variant for up to a month after it is received the head of South Africa’s Medical Research Council (SAMRC) said on Friday.

Glenda Gray presented the results of an SAMRC study to a South African health ministry briefing about the COVID-19 fourth-wave that was driven by the new version.

“We observed an effective vaccine of 85% and we observed that this type of vaccine effectiveness is sustained for up to two months,” she said. “We are extremely pleased to report very high levels of vaccine effectiveness against Omicron.”

The study involved 477,234 health professionals who were all vaccination-free with the J&J shot. Of them, 236,000 — or roughly half of them were vaccinated with the J&J booster shot.

It looked at hospitalisations of those healthcare workers infected during the fourth wave, and discovered that the booster shot reduced hospitalisations by 63% in the first two weeks after the booster, increasing to 85% for between one and two months.

“This is the first evidence of the effectiveness of vaccines (against Omicron) using the J&J vaccine,” Gray said.

The South African authorities have thus kept a preference for the Pfizer vaccine — they have administered 21 million doses, three times more than the roughly 7 million J&J vaccine doses.

But the J&J shot is considered to be more practical because it is a single dose regimen which is more convenient to administer in rural remote areas, where follow ups can be difficult.

The data supported already strong evidence worldwide that Omicron can be a vaccine-resistant evader when it comes to the initial infection.

There were around 30000 breakthrough infections among participants in the Omicron wave compared to only 11,000 in previous waves that were driven by the Beta and Delta variants.

The study also showed that those infected with HIV were more prone to being hospitalised with Omicron.

“They (those being treated in hospital) are more likely to suffer from HIV and less likely to suffer from other comorbidities when compared to the Beta and Delta period,” Gray said.

HIV prevalence in South Africa is about 13 percent..

A separate study by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases of South Africa (NICD) released as a preprint this week, and data presented to the UK government ( both suggest that Omicron is up to a third less likely to lead to hospitalisation compared with previous variants, even among unvaccinated people.

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