One-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine  is less effective against the Delta variant

The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is less effective against the Indian ‘Delta’ coronavirus variant than other shots, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that antibody levels from people who received the one-dose vaccine were twice as low compared to those given the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.  

The findings add to the growing body of evidence that the 13 million Americans who received J&J will need boosters to protect against highly infectious variants.

It comes as Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee on Wednesday that the variant makes up 83 percent of all new cases.

The findings are yet another setback for J&J’s vaccine, which has plagued by pauses, ingredient mix-ups, federal health warnings and doses needing to be thrown out. 

Antibody levels among people who received Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine were low against the Indian ‘Delta’ coronavirus variant.  Pictured: Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccines are seen on a table in Los Angeles, mAY 2021

‘The message that we wanted to give was not that people shouldn’t get the J.&J. vaccine, but we hope that in the future, it will be boosted with either another dose of J&J or a boost with Pfizer or Moderna,’ lead author Dr Nathaniel Landau, a virologist at NYU’s Grossman School of Medicine, told The New York Times. 

For the study, which has not been peer-reviewed, researchers looked at blood samples from 27 patients.

Of the group, 17 people had been immunized with two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and 10 people with one dose of the J&J vaccine.

Researchers found that antibody levels in J&J patients were five to seven times lower when exposed to the Delta variant.

Comparatively, levels in Pfizer and Moderna patients were three-fold lower.

The findings are in line with a UK study, which found that the AstraZeneca vaccine – which is made with the same technology that the J&J vaccine uses – is 33 percent effective against symptomatic disease caused by Delta. 

In real-world studies, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been shown to be more effective against the Delta variant.

A May analysis from Public Health England found two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were 80 percent effective overall at preventing infection by the variant.

The vaccine was also 88 percent effective against symptomatic disease and 96 percent effective against hospitalization. 

Meanwhile, a Canadian study found the Moderna vaccine was 72 percent effective against infection from the Delta variant.

There are few studies about how effective the vaccines are at preventing death, but a recent study from India – where the variant originated – found that only 0.4 percent of people who were vaccinated died from the virus.

Seema Kumar, a spokeswoman for J&J, told The Times that the data from the NYU study ‘do not speak to the full nature of immune protection.’

She added that company-sponsored studies show its vaccine ‘generated strong, persistent activity against the rapidly spreading Delta variant.’ 

The news comes just one week after it was revealed that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is adding a new warning to the label of J&J’s vaccine due to about 100 preliminary reports of the rare autoimmune disorder Guillain-Barré following the one-dose vaccine 

In April, the J&J vaccine was paused by the CDC and FDA for 10 days after six women under the age of 50 developed Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis (CVST), a rare blood clot that forms in the venous sinuses in the brain.

The women developed CVST in combination with a low platelet-count condition known as thrombocytopenia. 

This figure was later updated to include 28 people, including one 45-year-old woman who died. 

The pause was lifted and the FDA added a warning to J&J’s coronavirus vaccine that rare blood clotting events might occur, primarily among women under age 50.

The company then face production problems when workers at Emergent BioSolutions, a plant in Maryland, ruined millions of doses of J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine with an ingredient intended for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

J&J was forced to throw out about 75 million doses of the vaccine worth $750 million, according to the contract it signed with the federal government pricing each dose at $10.


This is a breaking news story and will be updated.