Johnson & Johnson shot still effective against delta variant, possible booster shot coming

Students and Faculty are able to get vaccinated at clinics on-campus. Joshua McSwain | Roundup

By Emily Cousins | Staff Writer

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both have a third dose available for immunocompromised people, but the Johnson & Johnson shot is still only a single dose.

While people who got the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have another shot to protect against the delta variant, people who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may be wondering how to protect themselves against a more contagious variant of COVID-19.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccine effectiveness average of the vaccines authorized in the United States dropped from 92% to 80%.

In response to the lowered efficacy rate, the National Institute of Health is currently conducting a clinical trial to determine which booster shots work with current COVID-19 vaccines.

“Adult volunteers who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will receive booster doses of different COVID-19 vaccines to determine the safety and immunogenicity of mixed boosted regimens,” an NIH news release stated.

Clinical associate professor Dr. Benjamin Ryan said it will be around four weeks or less before the results of this study will be available.

“At this point, I’d suggest waiting to see what occurs out of these studies,” Ryan said. “The data seems to indicate that [Johnson & Johnson] is holding its own against the delta variant, in that it’s still reducing hospitalizations and deaths, which is the key marker for vaccine success.”

Easton, Penn., senior Cassie Nataro received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in March at Baylor. Since then, she said via email she hasn’t gotten COVID-19, but the rising cases due to the delta variant is giving her reason to worry.

“The delta variant is concerning,” Nataro said. “I worry about someone getting into a car crash, and there’s not enough ICU beds because the delta variant is going around. I worry about children like my cousins who are going back to school and cannot get the vaccine yet. I worry that Baylor’s response to the delta variant will fail. I mostly worry that this could continue to happen and the pandemic will never end, but I also have faith in the scientists and medical experts to figure it out.”

Nataro said getting a booster shot for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would give her peace of mind as the delta variant spreads.

“I like the fact that J&J is one and done,” Nataro said. “It makes it easy for a lot of people, but on the other hand, booster shots are helpful. I’d love the opportunity to get a booster shot when deemed necessary and if an extra shot would better protect me and my loved ones.”

Ryan said the COVID-19 vaccines being around 80% effective is still great, but the boosters are necessary to stay ahead of virus mutations.

“The reason I think the boosters are a wonderful idea is we’re going to be moving into flu season, and it takes time to mobilize boosters,” Ryan said. “So we need to get all the logistics and supply chain setup.”

Ryan said there are little to no health risks with booster shots, so he thinks a booster shot is a safe play for the upcoming season.

“The last thing we want to be doing in sort of December, January, February, even in March is dealing with high numbers of cases of flu and COVID,” Ryan said. “So this is one strategy to mitigate that risk.”