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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

  • People who got Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine don’t need boosters against Delta, the company said.
  • Some experts who got the J&J shot took a Pfizer or Moderna booster for extra protection.
  • But the company said its vaccine produced a “strong” response to Delta, citing two small studies.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

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.

Read more: Experts explain why the mRNA tech that revolutionized COVID-19 vaccines could be the answer to incurable diseases, heart attacks, and even snake bites: ‘The possibilities are endless’

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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