johnson & johnson vaccine trial south africa eff Budget Speech 2021 vaccine

Image: AFP/Michael Ciaglo

SA trial: Over 9 in 10 infections *after* a J&J vaccine ‘are only mild cases’

Now that’s a shot in the arm. Mzansi’s Sisonke vaccine trial has confirmed that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can severely blunt ‘breakthrough infections’.

johnson & johnson vaccine trial south africa eff Budget Speech 2021 vaccine

Image: AFP/Michael Ciaglo

You love to see it: The Sisonke vaccine trials in South Africa – using the Johnson & Johnson jabs – have yielded some extremely positive results for the one-shot inoculations. According to data released by the SA Medical Research Council (SAMRC), a massive majority of people who catch COVID after being vaccinated ‘only end up with mild symptoms’.

Johnson & Johnson study held in SA brings positive news

These so-called ‘breakthrough infections’ in vaccinated persons happen infrequently. J&J jabs have an efficacy rate of 85%, and in epidemiological terms, this is a wonderful number. However, that does still mean that roughly 15% of those jabbed will be susceptible to an infection. No vaccine is 100% perfect – they never have been, and perhaps never will be.

But it’s not just about preventing cases: Vaccines are administered with the primary goal of saving lives – and boy, can the Johnson & Johnson vaccines do that. The numbers coming from their SA-based research trials are glorious. If you fall into the minority that does have a J&J shot and still gets COVID, the odds are very much in your favour:

  • – Breakthrough infections following the J&J vaccine are defined as a positive COVID test, +28 days after vaccination.
  • – A total of 94% of breakthrough infections were mild, making up an overwhelming majority of reported BI cases.
  • – Just 4% turned out moderate, and only 2% ended up being severe.
  • – A single dose of Johnson & Johnson ALSO protects against variants of concern – including delta and beta.
  • – Breakthrough infections are rare events themselves, and these vaccines will save lives and reduce hospital pressure.
  • – All the major vaccines have similar compositions – so this research could bode well for Pfizer, AZ, and Moderna.

Johnson & Johnson efficacy rates

Based on these numbers, 98% of people who get an infection after vaccinating with the J&J product will only experience mild or moderate symptoms. Your chances of surviving COVID-19 following immunisation are much, much higher than they would be if you dodged the jab altogether. Professor Glenda Gray, meanwhile, has waxed lyrical about these results…

“The single-dose vaccine, designed for emergency use is safe and easy to use. We have mounting data to suggest that immunity increases over time and that it retains its efficacy against important variants such as beta and delta. Keeping individuals out of ICU and off ventilators is an important outcome.

I’m very reassured that the vast majority of breakthrough infections in Sisonke are mild. We believe that recommending booster top-ups with another vaccine is premature. We hold in mind that South Africa has only vaccinated 3 of the 41 million people it needs to safeguard its people against severe COVID-19” | Professor Glenda Gray

How many J&J jabs does South Africa have?

Despite the recent loss of Johnson & Johnson jabs in South Africa – due to cross-contamination – there are still plenty of healthy batches ready and raring to go. President Ramaphosa confirmed on Sunday that over a million more doses have now been made available, as SA looks to ramp-up its vaccination drive.

“In the last three days, we have received an additional 1.2 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and 1.4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine through the COVAX facility. With these additional supplies, we will be able to rapidly increase the rate of vaccination this week and in the weeks that follow.”