New study suggests J&J coronavirus vaccine less effective against Delta variant

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CBS This Morning 21 July, 2021 - 09:42am 11 views

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Discussion | J&J vaccine and the Delta variant

eNCA 21 July, 2021 - 02:02pm

New Study Raises More Questions About J&J COVID Vaccine

CBS New York 21 July, 2021 - 02:02pm

Johnson & Johnson expects $2.5 billion in global sales from Covid vaccine this year

CNBC 21 July, 2021 - 05:41am

Johnson & Johnson said Wednesday it expects to sell $2.5 billion of its Covid-19 vaccine this year, even as concerns mount over the shot's effectiveness against the delta variant.

In releasing its second-quarter financial results, the company also reported earnings and revenue that beat Wall Street's expectations.

Here's how J&J did compared with what Wall Street expected, according to average estimates compiled by Refinitiv:

The company's share price was up nearly 1% in premarket trading following the report.

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J&J expects $2.5 billion in global sales from Covid vaccine this year  

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J&J's pharmaceutical business, which developed the single-shot Covid vaccine, generated $12.59 billion in revenue, a 17.2% year-over-year increase.

Jennifer Taubert, J&J's chairman for pharmaceuticals, said most of the company's core business lines are back to "pre-Covid levels," with the drugmaker seeing strength coming back in the United States and in Europe. The unit expects to continue to see strong sales regardless of Covid variants or any other "blips" related to the pandemic, she said.

The company's consumer unit, which makes products such as Neutrogena face wash and Listerine, generated $3.7 billion in revenue, up 13.3% from a year earlier. Its medical device unit generated $6.9 billion, a 62.7% increase. That unit was hit hard last year as the pandemic forced hospitals to postpone elective surgeries and Americans stayed home.

"We've all realized over the last 18 months just how important good health is and elective isn't elective forever," J&J Chief Financial Officer Joseph Wolk told CNBC after the company released its earnings report Wednesday.

Global sales of the Covid vaccine in the quarter were $164 million.

The company raised its earnings and revenue guidance for the year. J&J now expects a full-year profit of $9.50 to $9.60 per share, compared with its previous forecast of $9.30 to $9.45 per share. It expects revenue between $92.5 billion and $93.3 billion, compared with its prior forecast of $89.3 billion to $90.3 billion.

During an earnings call, J&J executives said it is too early to provide specific information on an outlook for 2022 and beyond for the Covid vaccine given the uncertainty on the need for booster shots and the spread of highly transmissible variants.

They said the company expects data from its study testing two doses of its vaccine in the third quarter or early fourth quarter of this year.

The financial results come a day after a new study suggested the J&J vaccine is much less effective against the delta and lambda variants than against the original virus. Researchers are now suggesting that a booster dose may be needed for J&J recipients.

The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, is at odds with a report from the company, which found the shot is effective against delta, especially against severe disease and hospitalization, even eight months after inoculation.

Delta, the dominant variant in the U.S., now accounts for an estimated 83% of infections in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Wolk told CNBC Wednesday that people should be "guarded" about the new study, adding the results were based on blood samples in a lab and may not reflect the shot's performance in a real world setting.

"I think it's probably best for everyone to refer to health officials who have not yet recommended a booster, even for some less duration vaccines out there," he said.

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Johnson & Johnson's vaccine produced fewer antibodies against Delta compared with other shots in an experiment. Experts say we shouldn't worry about the results.

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New York University researchers drew blood from eight people who received Moderna's vaccine, nine people who got Pfizer's, and 10 people that got J&J's, according to a preprint version of the study posted Tuesday. They compared the antibody response against Delta with the antibody response against the original strain of the coronavirus.

In the Moderna and Pfizer group, the antibody response was three times lower against Delta on average. For J&J's shot, it was 5.4 times lower against Delta, the study authors said.

The study authors said the lower antibody response for J&J's shot "could result in decreased protection." More than 9 million Americans have received that vaccine.

The Delta coronavirus variant, which is the most common cause of new infections in the US, is about 50% more infectious than the formerly dominant Alpha variant and has mutations that can help it avoid the immune response.

Dr. Ned Landau, who led the experiment, told CNBC that the findings suggested people who got the J&J vaccine "should at least consider" a second dose of the same vaccine or one from Pfizer or Moderna. 

But other experts aren't convinced about the findings of a small lab study, which hasn't yet been scrutinized by other experts in a peer review. They say Johnson & Johnson's vaccine could still work against Delta in real life.

Insider's Hilary Brueck reported Tuesday that fully vaccinated people could get COVID-19 — but if they do, they usually get mild symptoms, or none at all.

Read more: Experts explain why the mRNA tech that revolutionized COVID-19 vaccines could be the answer to incurable diseases, heart attacks, and even snake bites: 'The possibilities are endless'

Eric Topol, a professor of Molecular Medicine at the Scripps Research Institute, said on Twitter Tuesday that the antibody response with J&J's vaccine was above the threshold "for concern."

"There's also the T cell response," he added. The T-cell response is another aspect of the immune system — it is harder to study in the lab but is thought to be crucial to protect against variants. The NYU team didn't examine this in their study.

Peter Chin-Hong, a professor of infectious disease at University of California, San Francisco, told ABC10 News, "You can't necessarily extrapolate laboratory-based studies to what happens in real life." He cited J&J's performance against the Beta variant.

The same NYU study showed that the J&J vaccine's antibody response against Beta variant, which was first found in South Africa, was 6.5 times lower than its response against the original variant. But in humans, J&J's vaccine was 64% effective at preventing moderate to severe disease in its South Africa trials, when 95% infections were caused by the Beta variant.

Real-world data from South Africa, posted by the South African Medical Research Council on July 1, showed that 94% of health workers who were vaccinated with J&J's shot and then caught COVID-19 had only mild infections.  

The company said on July 2 that its COVID-19 vaccine should work against Delta.

Despite this, some experts who received J&J shots have opted to have an extra dose of Pfizer's or Moderna's vaccine.

Neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor the Food and Drug Administration recommend that people who received the J&J shot take an extra dose. There isn't enough data to support the approach, they say.

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