KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Johnson & Johnson said Wednesday that a booster of its COVID-19 vaccine increased antibodies nine times over the single shot.
If you initially got the single shot vaccine, will you now need a booster? Doctors with the University of Kansas Health System discussed the issue during a Facebook update on Wednesday.
“I think J & J will have the same booster recommendations at probably around six or eight months just like Moderna and Pfizer are going to have,” Dr. Steve Stites, Chief Medical Officer at the University of Kansas Health System, said. “That’s probably what we’re going to do and I bet we’re going to settle into an annual pattern of booster shots.”
Stites said medical experts will likely be able to predict that pattern in the coming months because we’ll begin to see how well the newly recommended Pfizer booster will protect people, and how long that protection will last. Moderna and J&J will also continue to collect data on their vaccines too.
“Vaccines induce multiple different forms of immunity, it’s not clear if those other forms wane,” Stites said. “But it does appear to be more clear though that as antibody levels fell the patients became less immune, and that’s why we’re seeing some of these quote breakthrough infections.”
Stites and other doctors say the idea of a booster shot is not a new concept. He said it’s something many people already rely on when it comes to their annual flu shot.
“We can get boosters, by the way with influenza vaccination to accomplish the same thing. There are some patients who are immunocompromised and who they get their, their influenza vaccine in September and may need a booster in February. So, not an uncommon idea,” Stites said. “The difference is you know influenza tends to fade out and we don’t worry about it anymore after about March or April.”
“What happens with COVID-19 is that it stays prevalent in the community, it, the variants come about and you need that booster to make sure you have all the defense you need, and that’s why you’re going to see it with Moderna, Pfizer, and now the evidence is about J & J,” Stites added.
Stites agreed with other doctors who said the information about the J&J booster is promising news.
“The good news is that all the J&J, Madonna, and Pfizer, all continue to offer really strong protection, even at 7, 6, 7, 8-months against severe hospitalization, which I’m going to define as having to come into the ICU or death,” Stites said. “And so I think that’s really important. So even though that vaccinated patients are being hospitalized, they rarely get progress to severe illness or death.”
Johnson & Johnson said it is working with the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health authorities regarding booster shots, and ongoing trials are underway.
“We look forward to discussing with public health officials a potential strategy for our Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, boosting eight months or longer after the primary single-dose vaccination,” Mathai Mammen, M.D., Ph.D., Global Head, Janssen Research & Development, Johnson & Johnson, said.
Just over half of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated. Vaccinations in this country bottomed out in July at an average of about a half-million shots per day, down from a peak of 3.4 million a day in mid-April.