Starting in January of last year, drug company Johnson & Johnson has been developing and testing a vaccine for COVID-19. The vaccine is called JNJ-78436735 or Ad26.COV2.S and currently, as of last week, the single dose vaccine has an efficacy rate of about 85 percent.
As of last week, Johnson & Johnson got the results back from the Phase 3 trial and found out that the current efficacy of the vaccine is around 66 percent. A vaccine by Novavax, an American vaccine development company, has been demonstrated to have a higher efficacy rate in its Phase 3 trial, a trial of 89 percent to be exact. According to Novax’s website, President and CEO of Novavax, Stanley C. Erck, stated that the company’s vaccine is “not only high clinical efficacy against COVID-19 but also significant clinical efficacy against both the rapidly emerging UK and South Africa variants.”
Though J&J vaccine’s efficacy drops to around 57 percent when battling South Africa’s COVID variant, it is still 89 percent effective and strong in halting “severe disease, hospitalization and death” in South Africa. The efficacy rates of protection against moderate to severe infection rose to 66 percent in Latin America and 72 percent in the United States, according to recent reports from the company’s website on their COVID efforts.
In addition, according to the company website, the vaccine overall is 85 percent effective in “preventing severe disease and demonstrated complete protection against COVID-19 related hospitalization and death” as of 28 days after vaccination.
How does it work?
Unlike the current mainstream COVID vaccines that have been authorized as of now (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna), the Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses double-stranded DNA instead of single-stranded RNA.
COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is an RNA virus, meaning that “the genetic material for the virus is encoded in ribonucleic acid.” This makes it easy for the viral RNA within the virus to cause protein synthesis in infected humans to mistake it for our own human DNA. RNA viruses, like COVID-19, include “single and double-stranded genomes.”
Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine uses a genetically altered version of adenovirus 26 – a common cold virus – that can enter human cells but can’t replicate them or cause illness. After the vaccine is injected, the adenovirus copies instructions for turning COVID-19’s spike protein into human cells. The human cells then make the spike protein, which triggers the immune system to produce antibodies and build up immune defenses from T cells.
Johnson & Johnson has also used this method for vaccines for Ebola, HIV and Zika. This same method for COVID-19 vaccines specifically has also been used by the University of Oxford and CanSino, the Canadian-Chinese vaccine company.
The antibodies produced by the immune system “latch onto” coronavirus spikes once they enter the human body and quickly block the spikes from attaching to human cells, preventing the infection. The helper T cell can also aid in killer cells infected by the coronavirus.
The vaccine has already been tested in over 40,000 adults, mainly in countries such as the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru and even South Africa. So far, after vaccination, over 400 cases of COVID-19 rose in participants. However, no deaths were recorded in the vaccine group.
Immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci currently says that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could be authorized “within a week or so.”
Cabrini’s health services have not yet offered comment on the matter.