Alarming data in a new study warns protection against the coronavirus from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine falls off of a cliff after about five months.
The study has not been subjected to the scrutiny of a peer review, which in the world of medical studies means that a bit of caution should be taken in assessing the findings.
A preprint of the six-month study of veterans was posted Thursday.
The study of more than 600,000 veterans between February and August said its goal was to learn more about breakthrough infections — those impacting adults who are already vaccinated.
The study noted what has been found elsewhere: Protection declines over time.
“Vaccine protection declined by mid-August 2021, decreasing from 91.9% in March to 53.9%,” it wrote.
“Declines were greatest for the Janssen vaccine followed by Pfizer–BioNTech and Moderna,” it wrote. Janssen is the division of Johnson & Johnson that made the vaccine.
The study reported that protection against infection with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine declined from 88 percent in March to 3 percent in August
Although the other vaccines showed declines, they were nowhere near as large.
Protection with the Moderna vaccine dropped from 92 percent to 64 percent, and Pfizer’s protection saw a drop from 91 percent to 50 percent. Both Pfizer and Moderna are two-shot vaccines while the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson is a one-shot vaccine.
The study cautioned “it is not yet clear whether an additional dose of the same vaccine will confer additional protection against Delta or other variants.”
“There is a public health imperative here, because what we’re seeing is that this is a group with overall lower efficacy than we have seen with the mRNA vaccine,” said Dr. Arnold Monto, the committee’s acting chairman and a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, according to the Daily Mail.
Boosters, which the Biden administration has touted as the answer to rising caseloads due to the delta variant of the virus, have also been approved for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine “can benefit from a second dose” of it said Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the FDA Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, according to CNN.
He cautioned, however, that vaccines are not magic.
“We have to define what’s the goal of this vaccine. If the goal of this vaccine is protection against serious illness, meaning the kind of illness that causes you to seek medical attention or go to the hospital or the ICU, the current vaccines, as two-dose vaccines, are doing exactly that. So, you don’t really need a booster dose, at least as far as those data are concerned,” he continued.
He said studies that linked the vaccine to a higher-than-usual incidence of a rare infection troubled him.
“I do worry about the sort of 18- to 29-year-old because that’s the group that has a higher risk of myocarditis — that’s inflammation of the heart muscle,” he said.
“So, without sort of clear benefit that that third dose is necessary, I think we’ve created this kind of ‘third dose fever’ in this country because of the way this has played out.”
Dr. Michael Kurilla, director of the Division of Clinical Innovation at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences at the National Institutes of Health, indicated that booster shots are good, but only for those who need them.
“I don’t see the need for a let-it-rip campaign for boosters,” Kurilla said.
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