J&J says second shot boosts protection for moderate-severe COVID-19 to 94%

CHICAGO, Sept 21 (Reuters) – Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) said Tuesday a second shot of its COVID-19 vaccine given about two months after the first increased its effectiveness to 94% in the United States against moderate to severe forms of the disease.

That compares to 70% protection with a single dose.

The data will help J&J make its case to U.S. regulators for a booster shot even as the company stresses the durability of its single-shot vaccine as a tool to ease the global pandemic.

President Joe Biden is pushing for booster shots in the face of surging hospitalizations caused by the Delta variant and J&J, the only drugmaker with a single-shot COVID-19 vaccine approved in the United States, has been under pressure to produce evidence on the effectiveness of an additional dose.

The company has now “generated evidence that a booster shot further increases protection against COVID-19,” Dr. Paul Stoffels, J&J’s chief scientific officer, said in a statement.

J&J said a booster given two months after the first dose increased antibody levels four to six-fold. When given six months after the first dose, antibody levels shot up twelve-fold, data released last month showed, suggesting a large improvement in protection with the longer interval between doses. read more

Side effects with two doses were comparable to those seen in studies with the single-dose vaccine. The data is yet to be peer reviewed but will be submitted for publication in the coming months.

To date, only Pfizer Inc (PFE.N)/BioNTech SE have submitted sufficient data for U.S. regulators to evaluate whether boosters are warranted ahead of the Biden Administration’s Sept. 20 deadline for rolling out booster shots. A decision on that vaccine is expected this week.