Here’s why SA has turned to the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine

By Kelly Jane Turner Time of article published Feb 8, 2021

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Cape Town - The single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been shown to be effective against severe disease across age groups, geographies and virus variants, including variants found in South Africa.

Johnson & Johnson announced results from the phase 3 Ensemble clinical trial showed the coronavirus vaccine was 85% effective in preventing severe disease and demonstrated complete protection against Covid-19 related hospitalization and deaths.

The trial had 44 325 people enrolled from the US, Latin America & South Africa.

In South Africa the vaccine was 57% effective against moderate to severe disease, and 89% efficient against severe disease and death. Nearly all of the cases were due to infection with the new variant.

“Protection was generally consistent across race, age groups, including adults over 60 years of age, and across all variants and regions studied, including South Africa where nearly all cases of Covid-19 (95%) were due to infection with a SARS-CoV-2 variant from the B.1.351 lineage,” read the Johnson & Johnson press release.

Attention has now been turned to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after it was revealed that the AstraZeneca vaccine — which had been scheduled to be rolled out in South Africa this month — is now on temporary hold.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize made the announcement on Sunday after data showed the vaccine gave minimal protection against mild-to-moderate infection caused by the country's dominant coronavirus variant.

Joint lead investigating officer in the South African part of the trial, Professor Glenda Gray said that Johnson & Johnson submitted a request for an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week.

“Over the next few days we expect to announce a plan to expedite vaccinations using the Janssen investigational product in healthcare workers in South Africa,” said Gray.

The vaccine has not been approved yet in the country, however Gray said there is a rolling submission with South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA).

The investigational Janssen Covid-19 vaccine candidate uses similar technology that was used in the development of their approved Ebola, HIV, and Zika vaccine candidates.

The Janssen AdVac technology works by using an adenovirus also known as a group of viruses that cause the common cold to mimic components of a coronavirus.

When the body encounters the adenovirus the body will induce both a long-lasting immune response against the virus, by producing immune cells and antibodies.

In the future, if the body encounters the Coronavirus, the body will be able to respond faster and more effectively, as immune cells and antibodies specific to the pathogen will be rapidly produced in the body to prevent the pathogen from inducing disease.

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