J&J trials will offer insight into South Africa variant

Boston Statehouse

FILE – This September 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine being developed by the company. A late-stage study of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate has been paused while the company investigates whether a study participant’s “unexplained illness” is related to the shot, the company announced Monday, Oct. 12, 2020. (Cheryl Gerber/Courtesy of Johnson & Johnson via AP, File)

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BOSTON (SHNS) – The results of Johnson & Johnson’s Phase Three clinical trials of its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine are expected to be announced in the coming days and could give health officials insight into the vaccine’s efficacy on new variants detected in South Africa and Brazil, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the results from the Johnson & Johnson trials could give public health officials some direction for how to plan for the arrival of these new variants of COVID-19.

So far, 308 cases of the more contagious United Kingdom variant have been confirmed in 26 states, according to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, and one case of the Brazil variant was detected in Minnesota.

The South Africa variant has not yet shown up in tests in the United States. “When you’re looking at the UK variant, what we’re seeing is a very slight if at all impact on vaccine induced antibodies,” Fauci said.

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have induced moderately less antibody production with the South Africa strain, but Fauci said, “It is still well within the cushion of protection.”

The government is working with pharmaceutical companies to develop booster shots to respond to new strains, and Fauci said the country needs to improve its genomic tracking efforts to stay ahead of the mutations.

“We have to be concerned looking forward about what the further evolution of this might be,” Fauci said.

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