Johnson & Johnson touts antibody response for COVID-19 booster 8 months after original vaccination

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Last week, U.S. health officials said they would update their booster plan for Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients after the company delivered more data. (Wikimedia Commons)

Shortly after the U.S. telegraphed its booster plan for Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines, Johnson & Johnson has rolled out trial results showing a follow-up dose of its vaccine boosts recipients' antibody responses.

Armed with interim results from two phase 1/2a studies, Johnson & Johnson on Wednesday said a follow-up dose of its vaccine prompted a “rapid and robust” increase in spike-binding antibodies. The increase was more than nine times higher than results observed 28 days after primary vaccination, the company said in a release.

Investigators observed “significant” antibody boosts in patients between the ages of 18 to 55, as well as in patients ages 65 and up, the company said. For the study, investigators gave recipients boosters eight months after their original vaccination.

J&J says it’s connecting with the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plus the European Medicines Agency and other regulators to potentially tee up up a booster shot for its vaccine. In July, the company reported interim data in The New England Journal of Medicine showing its vaccine offered a durable neutralizing antibody response through eight months post-vaccination.

Stateside, health officials last week unveiled the U.S.' plan to make mRNA booster shots available to patients eight months after their second Pfizer or Moderna dose starting next month.

J&J’s viral vector vaccine wasn’t included in the plan, but the need for a J&J booster is “likely,” Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D., said at the time. He said the U.S. would update its plan for J&J vaccine recipients once the company delivered additional data.

RELATED: Pfizer now expects COVID vaccine sales to reach $33.5B this year, a whopping $7.5B bump from its estimate 3 months ago

Aside from helping people maintain a defense against COVID-19, boosters will have a big say on just how high Pfizer, Moderna and J&J’s vaccine revenues climb. Pfizer currently expects to gin up $33.5 billion in coronavirus vaccine sales this year, while Moderna is eyeing $19 billion in COVID shot revenues.

While the FDA and the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices still need to sign off on additional doses for the general public, the U.S. has already expanded its authorizations of Pfizer and Moderna’s shots to include a third dose for immunocompromised people.

In all, the Biden administration says data show two COVID-19 vaccine doses remain largely effective against severe symptoms, hospitalizations and deaths, but effectiveness against infection starts to wane over time. Vaccines generally work less well against the delta variant, as well, officials have said.

RELATED: Biden administration's push for COVID boosters raises concerns about the science and morality of the plan

Shortly after Biden administration officials unveiled the plan, critics raised concerns with the science backing the data and the morality of the booster effort. The World Health Organization said current data don’t support the need for boosters. It pointed to the urgency of vaccinating people who haven’t received the shot in poorer countries. Johns Hopkins vaccines researcher Anna Durbin, M.D., told Stat that she felt the booster push was predicated on fear—especially of delta—rather than hard evidence that a follow-up dose is needed.