J&J vaccine effective against virus variants, study shows

Johnson & Johnson's single-shot COVID-19 vaccine is effective against the B.1.351 variant first identified in South Africa and the P.2 variant that first emerged in Brazil, according to research published April 21 in the New England Journal of Medicine

The study is based on Johnson & Johnson's clinical trial that enrolled 43,783 participants across three continents. Forty-four percent of the trial's participants were in the U.S., 41 percent were in Central and South America and 15 percent were in South Africa.

Trial results showed the vaccine prevented hospitalization and death in all participants 28 days after they received their shot. 

The vaccine was 67 percent effective on average against moderate to severe COVID-19 at least 14 days after administration, and it was 66 percent effective at 28 days post-vaccination. These results are consistent with the numbers Johnson & Johnson reported in January — the shot meets the FDA's COVID-19 protection requirements but offers less protection than the vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna.

In South Africa, where the B.1.351 variant was identified in 95 percent of the COVID-19 cases, the shot was 64 percent effective against moderate to severe COVID-19. It was 82 percent effective against severe COVID-19 beginning 28 days post-vaccination. 

In Brazil, where the P.2 variant was identified in 69 percent of COVID-19 cases, the shot was 68 percent effective against moderate COVID-19 and 88 percent effective against severe COVID-19.

Protection levels were consistent across various age and race groups. The study also showed no evidence that protection declines over time after Johnson & Johnsons followed about 3,000 participants for 11 weeks and 1,000 participants for 15 weeks.

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