Johnson & Johnson’s COVID vaccine less effective against Delta variant, study says

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Vials of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine are seen

Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot COVID-19 vaccine is less effective against coronavirus variants than the original virus, according to a study posted online Tuesday.

The study, published by bioRxiv but not yet peer reviewed, indicated the vaccine’s effectiveness in neutralizing the Delta and Lambda variants was “significantly decreased.”

However, studies published by Johnson & Johnson earlier this month suggest that its vaccine protects against the Delta strain. It “generated strong, persistent activity against the rapidly spreading Delta variant,” spokeswoman Seema Kumar told The New York Times, which first reported the bioRxiv findings.

The study suggests the 13 million people who received the J&J vaccine may need a second dose — or a dose from either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna shots, the authors said.

“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,” Nathaniel Landau, the leader of the study and a virologist at NYU’s Grossman School of Medicine, told The Times.

Previous studies have found the two-dose mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna effectively protect against the highly contagious Delta strain, which has become the dominant variant in New Jersey and across the U.S.

More than 99% of the hospitalizations and deaths in New Jersey are occurring among unvaccinated people, the state has said in recent weeks. But immunization rates have slowed.

The study is just the latest bad news for New Brunswick-based Johnson & Johnson.

Use of its vaccine was temporarily suspended this spring after reports of life-threatening blood clots. Millions of doses had to be destroyed after contamination issues at a manufacturing plant in Baltimore. And the company continues to be plagued by lawsuits over its talcum-based baby powder, which it no longer sells in the United States, and its role in the opioid epidemic.