Vials with a sticker reading, "COVID-19 / Coronavirus vaccine / Injection only" and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed Johnson & Johnson logo in this illustration taken October 31, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

A Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine booster shot is 85% effective in protecting against being hospitalised by the Omicron variant for 1-2 months after it is received, the head of South Africa's Medical Research Council (SAMRC) said on Friday.

Iran PressAfrica: The study involved 477,234 healthcare workers vaccinated with the J&J shot. As many as 236,000 healthcare workers, roughly half the sample size, had also received the J&J booster shot.

Glenda Gray, head of SAMRC, while presenting the findings of the study at a South African health ministry briefing on the COVID-19 fourth wave on Friday, said, “We saw an 85 per cent vaccine effectiveness and we saw that this kind of vaccine effectiveness is maintained for up to two months.” “We are very happy to report very high levels of vaccine effectiveness against Omicron,” she added, according to Reuters News Agency. 

As per report, the study looked at hospitalisations among those healthcare workers who had been infected during the fourth wave, and found that the booster shot reduced hospitalisations by 63 per cent in the first two weeks after the booster, going up to 85 per cent  after that for between one and two months. 

“This is the world’s first evidence of vaccine effectiveness (against Omicron) using the J&J vaccine,” Gray said.

The fourth wave of pandemic in Sourth africa was largely dominated by Omicron Varient. Thus far, the  South African authorities have maintained a preference for the Pfizer vaccine — they have administered 21 million doses, three times as many as the roughly 7 million J&J vaccine doses.

But the J&J shot is considered logistically much more preferable because it is a single dose regimen, which is easier to administer in remote rural areas, where follow ups can be difficult. The data supported already strong global evidence that Omicron can evade vaccine protection when it comes to the initial infection.

Among the participants in the study, there were about 30,000 breakthrough infections during the Omicron wave, compared with only around 11,000 each in the previous waves driven by the Delta and Beta variants. The study also highlighted that those infected with HIV were more vulnerable to being hospitalised with Omicron.

“They (those being hospitalised) are more likely to have HIV and less likely to have other comorbidities as compared to the Beta and Delta period,” Gray said. HIV prevalence in South Africa is about 13 per cent.

A separate study by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases of South Africa (NICD) on Friday suggested that Omicron may be cause less severe disease than previous variants, even among unvaccinated people.


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