J&J shot question

Coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccine points are reporting a surge in demand for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine in some places nationwide, as the Delta variant pushes infection rates up and vaccine mandates take place in many areas.

And after some confusion, Johnson and Johnson sought to clear up the situation with potential boosters, suggesting a second shot would be beneficial, in late September — but that information was contained in a press release, not a formal recommendation by scientists.

One of our vaccine workers said this: “At the event where I volunteered at which offered both the Pfizer and J&J vaccines, there were people who chose J&J because they only have just that one chance to get vaccinated. (Many of the people who came to get vaccinated are immigrants and many of them work in essential jobs, or in jobs with long or irregular hours.) Meanwhile, most of the recent vaccine booking requests we’ve received here at Epicenter have been for individuals who want the J&J vaccine. They told us they now have to meet employer, school or government vaccine mandates to be ‘fully vaccinated’ by a certain date.”

The New York Times did a piece recently about the recent developments with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, focusing on whether the vaccine’s efficacy suggests the need for a booster shot.

“We’ve heard the question from friends, family members and dozens of readers: Should people who received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine be getting a booster shot?” David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick wrote in The Times’s “Morning Newsletter.Э “Karen, a Morning reader in Michigan, wrote to us: ‘Since receiving mine in March, I am wondering what the facts are. I am frightened.’ Leah in California wrote: ‘Information about J.&J. is not communicated at all!’ Lauren from Nashville asked: “What’s the guidance for us?’ Today’s newsletter is for them. We will try to lay out the facts so you can make your own decision.”

Reflecting the confusion

Another resource comes from Your Local Epidemiologist, Katelyn Jetelina, who wrote a newsletter arriving on Sunday, Sept. 19, about the J&J vaccine.

“There are 14.6 million people in the United States left in the dark about their Johnson and Johnson (J&J) shot. Does it work against Delta? Is it safe and effective to get a second J&J shot? Can J&J folks mix shots? If so, which mix is the best?” she writes. “We don’t know much and I’m incredibly frustrated about this. The lack of guidance or just plain communication from the private (J&J) and/or public sector is unacceptable. I put together this post based on all the evidence we have today. I realize it’s data heavy, but I wanted to be sure you had a clear understanding of what we have and don’t have so you can make a data-driven decision. I also (reluctantly) provided some insight on what I would do if I had J&J…”

She closes:

“Someone I greatly admire, Dr. Angie Rasmussen, a brilliant virologist, got the J&J shot first and then decided, back in June, to get an mRNA dose. You can read her thought process on Twitter here, where she talks about weighing risks with benefits.

“Bottom Line:  We don’t have much data and it’s more than frustrating. The J&J vaccine isn’t as effective against hospitalization as Moderna or Pfizer. But there is still some protection. Some small studies have shown that getting a second J&J dose increases antibodies. There is no data on mixing J&J with mRNA vaccines, so there is risk by going off label. I and Dr. Rasmussen would take that risk, but that doesn’t everyone would.”

Recommending another shot

After days of confusion, J&J sought to clear up the situation by recommending a booster, two months after the first dose.

Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday its Covid-19 booster shot is 94% effective when administered two months after the first dose in the United States. It also said the booster increases antibody levels by four to six times compared with one shot alone,” CNN reported two days later, on Sept. 21. “The new data, provided in a press release, helps J&J make a case to the Food and Drug Administration to authorize a booster shot to some 14.8 million Americans who have received the company’s single-dose vaccine.”

The company’s revelation continues the pattern of confusing vaccine and booster advice. Often the companies give a recommendation, based on their own data, in a press release. That recommendation is to be approved by authorities, in the United States the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration.

Jeanne Pinder

Jeanne Pinder  is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded...