Early Trials: Johnson & Johnson COVID Vaccine Prompts Immune Response

J&J vaccine is a single-dose shot and doesn’t have strict storage temperature requirements of some other vaccines.

Early Trials: Johnson & Johnson COVID Vaccine Prompts Immune Response
AP Photo/Virginia Mayo

Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose coronavirus vaccine is safe and seems to cause an immune response in both young and elderly volunteers.The vaccine works differently than the two emergency-approved vaccines being shot into arms now. 

"It uses a common cold virus called an adenovirus, and it basically splices in the genetic material before the protein from the coronavirus. So it's a vaccine platform, but uses another virus to deliver the spike protein to the, to the body," Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security Senior Scholar Dr. Amesh Adalja told Newsy.

In the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, data shows J&J tested 805 volunteers, between 18 and 55 and 65 and older. They got either a placebo, a low dose, or high dose of the shot. Some got a second booster. 

Ninety percent of the volunteers produced virus-neutralizing antibodies 29 days later. By day 57, all volunteers had antibodies, regardless of dose or age group. The 18-to-55 age group remained stable for at least 71 days. 

The most common side effects were fever, fatigue, headache, muscle aches and pain at the injection site. 

The big appeal of this vaccine is that it’s one and done. It also doesn’t have to be kept at the strict temperatures like the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines.

These are the results from the early Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials, where researchers are looking to test things like the baseline safety and which dose works best. 

The Phase 3 trial results, where tens of thousands of people were studied, will tell us much more. 

"Everybody's interested to see how the Johnson and Johnson vaccine looks in a Phase three clinical trial where it's put up against the virus. Does it have comparable efficacy to the MRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna?  All of that's going to be really important to see, to help us gauge and judge what the role of this vaccine will be along with the other two," Adalja said.

Johnson and Johnson expects to release the initial findings of that big Phase 3 trial next week, with an application for FDA emergency approval coming by the end of January. For Newsy, I’m Lindsey Theis.