South African study shows high Covid-19 protection from Johnson & Johnson shot

The J&J vaccine was administered to healthcare workers from mid-February in a research study.
The J&J vaccine was administered to healthcare workers from mid-February in a research study.PHOTO: REUTERS

JOHANNESBURG (REUTERS) - Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine is working well in South Africa, offering protection against severe disease and death, the co-head of a trial in the country said on Friday (Aug 6).

The J&J vaccine was administered to healthcare workers from mid-February in a research study, which was completed in May, with 477,234 health workers vaccinated, joint lead investigator Glenda Gray told a media briefing.

South Africa's health regulator approved the J&J shot in April, and it is being used in the national vaccine programme alongside Pfizer's.

Dr Gray said the single-shot J&J vaccine offered 91 per cent to 96.2 per cent protection against death, while offering 67 per cent efficacy against infection when the Beta coronavirus variant dominates and about 71 per cent when the Delta variant dominates.

"Consistently after receiving the vaccine, there was very little death occurring in the vaccinated group as compared with the control group and showing a remarkable up to 96.2 per cent protection against death," Dr Gray said.

"This was our primary endpoint and we are able to say this vaccine protected health workers against death," she added.

South Africa's vaccination campaign got off to a shaky start in February after the government paused AstraZeneca vaccinations because of a small trial showing the shot offered minimal protection against mild to moderate illness caused by the Beta variant, which was dominant in the country at the time.

Vaccinations have since ramped up, with more than 8.3 million people vaccinated as at Thursday.

Newly appointed Health Minister Joe Phaahla told the same briefing that the government was planning to start using other vaccines approved by the regulator, including the Sinovac shot.

He added that the government is also looking to bring the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has now been shown to be effective against the Delta variant, back into use.