Health leaders discuss next steps after Johnson & Johnson releases booster shot study results

Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients are waiting for the all-clear to get boosters. (WHSV)
Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients are waiting for the all-clear to get boosters. (WHSV)(WHSV)
Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 6:28 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 25, 2021 at 8:47 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - On Wednesday, Johnson & Johnson revealed the results of a study health officials in Virginia say show promising results to boost immunity against COVID-19.

The company said people who received the booster shot in their Phase 2 study showed a nine-fold increase in antibodies.

“The data that Johnson and Johnson released shows that at eight months, a booster dose increases your circulating antibodies nine-fold,” said Dr. Danny Avula, Virginia’s vaccine coordinator. “That’s a pretty impressive increase in circulating antibodies.”

The results come one week after the Biden administration recommends booster shots for people who received a Pfizer and Moderna shot eight months after their second dose. The CDC also announced plans to start rolling out these booster shots in late September, pending FDA approval.

Dr. Avula says the results give Virginians a look at how the shot can help boost your protection against the virus. He says 341,000 people in Virginia have received the Johnson and Johnson shot.

Before people can roll up their sleeves for the Johnson and Johnson booster shot, Dr. Avula says there’s still a process it needs to go through.

“That data ultimately will be submitted to the FDA for a more thorough, independent review, but also a recommendation about what timeline should occur,” he said.

Dr. Avula says since the Johnson and Johnson vaccine didn’t start going into arms until March, he believes the booster shot won’t be distributed until November.

However, Dr. Avula says this is a timeframe people shouldn’t worry about when it comes to their level of protection against the virus.

“At eight months, your immunity doesn’t magically disappear,” he said. “There is a progressive slight decrease and that looks to happen around eight months, but in some people, it’s going to happen sooner and in some people, it’s going to happen later.”

If and when the Johnson and Johnson booster is given the green light to move forward, Dr. Avula says the state will be ready to roll out the shots.

“We don’t think supply will be a concern at all,” said Dr. Avula. “It’s really ensuring there’s enough different channels people can access their vaccine through.”

“We now have a lot of vaccine coverage through our pharmacies, our primary care providers and the local health districts,” said Cat Long, a spokesperson for the Richmond-Henrico Health District. “When the time comes for additional doses or booster shots, we’ll expect it to be pretty easy for folks to find an appointment.

If the FDA gives the final approval for the Johnson and Johnson booster shot, Dr. Avula also expects guidance to come out about vaccine crossovers.

“There were a lot of studies out in the United Kingdom early on looking at people who initially started with AstraZeneca and then switched over to Moderna and Pfizer. Those also had a really good combined effect,” he said. “There will also likely be some guidance around people who want to choose one of the mRNA vaccines.”

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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