The hotly anticipated findings are the first from a late-stage trial that enrolled 45,000 people across the world. While the shot was 72 percent effective in the U.S. arm of the trial, it fell to just 57 percent in South Africa, where a highly transmissible variant predominates.
Overall, the company said the shot was 85 percent effective in preventing severe disease, and that protective effect increased over time. The vaccine provided "complete protection against COVID-related hospitalization and death," the company added.
News that J&J's vaccine is less effective against the South African variant, known as B.1.351, comes days after vaccine makers Moderna and Pfizer said their shots are less potent against the strain. Health officials in South Carolina reported the first known U.S. cases of the variant on Thursday.
Johnson & Johnson said it plans to file for emergency use authorization in early February and expects to have "product available to ship" immediately following authorization.
he vaccine could provide a critical single-dose option to health officials trying to vaccinate hard-to-reach or hesitant populations against the virus. It is one of only two single-dose options in late-stage U.S. trials, and can be stored in refrigerators rather than freezers. J&J also has an ongoing two-dose trial.
Those logistical advantages could aid the Biden administration's efforts to accelerate the pace of vaccination beyond the president's initial goal of administering 100 million shots per day during his first 100 days in office. Calls to speed up vaccine administration have grown more urgent since the B.1.351 variant and others first identified in the U.K. and Brazil have reached the United States.
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