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Johnson & Johnson says COVID-19 vaccine 85% effective against severe cases

The company said interim results showed the vaccine varied in effectiveness in three regions where it was tested. File Photo by Justin Lane/EPA-EFE
The company said interim results showed the vaccine varied in effectiveness in three regions where it was tested. File Photo by Justin Lane/EPA-EFE

Jan. 29 (UPI) -- A coronavirus vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson has proven to be about 85% effective in preventing severe cases, the company announced Friday.

Johnson & Johnson released the results of its third-stage clinical trials, which tested its vaccine in 44,000 volunteers in the United States, Latin America and South Africa.

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However, the results varied by region when it comes to less severe cases.

For moderate to severe cases, the company said the vaccine proved to be about 72% effective among U.S. volunteers, 66% in Latin America and just 57% in South Africa.

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Johnson & Johnson's testing of the vaccine included its use against a variant of the disease first identified in South Africa. In fact, the company said 95% of all cases in South Africa involved the B.1.351 variant.

"Among all participants from different geographies and including those infected with an emerging viral variant, Janssen's COVID-19 vaccine candidate was 66% effective overall in preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, 28 days after vaccination," the company said in a statement.

The vaccine was developed by Johnson & Johnson's subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

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"These results are a testament to the extraordinary efforts of everyone involved in our COVID-19 vaccine candidate clinical program, and we are extremely grateful to the clinical trial staff and trial participants for their invaluable contributions," Dr. Mathai Mammen, head of Janssen Research & Development, said.

"Changing the trajectory of the pandemic will require mass vaccination to create herd immunity, and a single-dose regimen with fast onset of protection and ease of delivery and storage provides a potential solution to reaching as many people as possible.

"The ability to avoid hospitalizations and deaths would change the game in combating the pandemic."

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Johnson & Johnson's vaccine is considered to have several advantages over the vaccines available from Pfizer and Moderna.

Unlike the other two, Johnson & Johnson's vaccine doesn't require freezing for storage, which makes it logistically simpler to ship. It also comprises of just one shot, instead of the two-shot process for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Johnson & Johnson's trials found that some volunteers began showing signs of protection against the coronavirus as early as day 14, the company said.

The vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna are both about 95% effective in blocking the novel coronavirus, but their clinical trials did not examine the vaccines' effects against new variant strains.

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