At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the eyes of the world turned to pharmaceutical companies and scientists who could potentially end the devastation caused by the virus. In the U.S., three vaccines received emergency authorization use approval, including one made by Johnson & Johnson (JNJ).
The single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine was a simpler option for many Americans to get protection from the coronavirus without having to schedule two appointments weeks apart. Now, the Department of Health and Human Services has been working on plans for booster shots for everyone who has been vaccinated.
The other two COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. are manufactured by Moderna and Pfizer. Like the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Moderna’s vaccine doesn't currently have full FDA approval, although it's in the process of seeking that designation as soon as possible.
However, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine received full FDA approval in August, which gives it more freedom. Pfizer has more weight as a viable preventative tool against the virus.
When will COVID-19 booster shots be available?
All three vaccines appear to decrease in protection effectiveness over time, the CDC and HHS have noted to the public. A public joint statement released on August 18, 2021, said that the FDA will be conducting studies to evaluate the efficacy of giving a third dose of Moderna or Pfizer vaccines as a booster shot.
At the time, the plan was to start offering booster shots to improve protection against COVID-19 the week of Sept. 20. The earliest an individual would be able to receive a booster vaccine is eight months from the date of that person’s second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
There might be delays in the original timeline. The Wall Street Journal reported that only people who are immunocompromised are currently approved for boosters.
Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine received emergency use authorization and started to be administered in March 2021, several months later than the two mRNA vaccines. Therefore, the CDC and HHS aren't prepared with data on a Johnson & Johnson booster shot yet.
Johnson & Johnson announced on Aug. 25 that it had been conducting studies on previously vaccinated individuals who received a second dose as a booster.
Mathai Mammen, the Global Head of Janssen Research and Development (with Johnson & Johnson) said, “With these new data, we also see that a booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine further increases antibody responses among study participants who had previously received our vaccine.”
According to The New York Times, it's difficult to determine when and how Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients might be able to receive a booster shot.
“I feel strongly that the federal government needs to allow boosters for J.&J. recipients,” said George Washington University’s Dr. Leana Wen.
CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky hasn't officially endorsed the practice of getting a different shot (Moderna or Pfizer) as a J&J booster.
The New York Times acknowledged that this is a sticky matter, since the Johnson & Johnson booster could receive official approval in the coming weeks. The Delta variant adds urgency to the matter of vaccines and boosters.