South African study shows high COVID protection from J&J shot

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Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine is working well in South Africa, offering protection against severe disease and death, the co-head of a trial in the country said on Friday.

The J&J vaccine was administered to healthcare workers from mid-February in a research study, which was completed in May, with 477 234 health workers vaccinated, joint lead investigator Glenda Gray told a media briefing.

South Africa’s health regulator approved the J&J shot in April, and it is being used in the national vaccine programme alongside Pfizer’s

Gray said the single-shot J&J vaccine offered 91% to 96.2% protection against death, while offering 67% efficacy against infection when the Beta coronavirus variant dominates and about 71% when the Delta variant dominates.

“Consistently after receiving the vaccine, there was very little death occurring in the vaccinated group as compared to the control group and showing a remarkable up-to 96.2% protection against death,” Gray said.

“This was our primary endpoint and we are able to say this vaccine protected health workers against death,” she added.

South Africa’s vaccination campaign got off to a shaky start in February after the government paused AstraZeneca vaccinations because of a small trial showing the shot offered minimal protection against mild to moderate illness caused by the Beta variant, which was dominant in the country at the time.

Vaccinations have since ramped up, with over 8.3 million people vaccinated as of Thursday.

Newly appointed health minister Joe Phaahla told the same briefing that the government was planning to start using other vaccines approved by the regulator, including the Sinovac shot.

“It was approved … also that the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has now been shown to be effective against the Delta variant, that we should also look at bringing it back into use,” Phaahla said.

Phaahla media briefing on government efforts to fight COVID-19 pandemic: