The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been beset by controversy since before it even rolled out. Still, the actual data around the vaccine has been consistent: It’s generally safe and offers a significant layer of protection against COVID-19. But the emergence (and now, dominance) of new variants is changing the narrative. New research now suggests that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may not be as effective against variants as the other vaccines available here in the US.
A preliminary study was released yesterday that suggests that the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine is substantially less effective against the Delta variant than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and that those who received the J&J vax may need a second shot, the New York Times reported. It should be noted that this study has yet to be published, has not been peer reviewed, and was done on blood samples in a lab (rather than on humans out in the real world), so it’s too soon to say if the research will stand up to scrutiny. Regardless, this update does give us enough reason to consider wearing masks indoors again, regardless of our vaccine status.
And while proclaiming that J&J is a dud makes for dramatic headlines, it isn’t actually true, and getting a second shot after the initial J&J dose isn’t a novel idea. Many scientists suspected that the one-shot solution wasn’t going to cut it. And earlier research has shown that the mRNA vaccines — which use a new technology to deliver messenger RNA to the immune system — may be more effective against Delta.
“I have always thought, and often said, that the J&J vaccine is a two-dose vaccine,” John Moore, a virologist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, told the Times. Plus, doctors have been trying to tell us for a while now that we’ll probably all need boosters, including individuals who got the Pfizer or Moderna vaxxes.
Still, even the scientists who authored the study don’t want anyone to think that the J&J vax isn’t a useful tool against the virus. “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, a virologist at N.Y.U.’s Grossman School of Medicine, who led the study, told the Times.
In other words, if you got the J&J shot, try not to freak out. Just check in with your doctor to see if they think you need a booster sooner rather than later.