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Some experts who had Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine are getting Pfizer boosters to protect against Delta — but the company says they don’t need to

A woman receives a Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine from registered nurse Gina Reed at a vaccination center established at the Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport Hotel in Chicago, Illinois, on March 5, 2021.
Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP via Getty Images

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People that got Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine don’t need booster shots to protect against the highly infectious Delta variant, according to the company.

The company said Thursday that the vaccine produced a “strong” antibody response against the Delta variant and other variants with worrisome mutations. The immune response lasted for at least eight months, they said, citing two small-scale lab experiments.

The two experiments hadn’t been scrutinized by other experts in a peer-review. One experiment tested the shot using 8 blood samples, the other used 20.

The company’s announcement comes after experts who received the J&J shot said Monday that they had taken an extra dose of Moderna or Pfizer’s vaccine to try to boost protection against Delta. The variant has mutations that help it avoid the immune response.

This approach is not recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the Food and Drug Administration.

More than 9 million Americans have been given the single-dose vaccine, according to the CDC.

Johnson & Johnson said that the vaccine produced “higher levels” of antibodies against the Delta variant, first found in India, than the Beta variant, first found in South Africa, but the exact difference in antibody response between the two wasn’t stated.

Dr. Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson, said in the press release that the new lab data added to the “robust body of clinical data supporting our single-shot vaccine’s ability to protect against multiple variants of concern.”

J&J’s vaccine was 57% effective at preventing moderate to severe disease in its South Africa trials, when 95% infections were caused by the Beta variant.

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Real-world data from South Africa, posted by the South African Medical Research Council on Thursday, showed that 94% of health workers who were vaccinated with J&J’s shot and then caught COVID-19 only had mild infections.

Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the University of Saskatchewan who took an extra dose of Pfizers’s vaccine after her J&J shot, said on Twitter Thursday that the J&J vaccine appeared to be holding up against the current variants of concern — but that boosters shouldn’t be ruled out in places where the community hadn’t been fully vaccinated.

“We should also both improve vaccine uptake in our own communities and ensure that surplus doses that are expiring on freezer shelves in the US are going to places where there has been little vaccination,” she said.

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