Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, on Sunday, Aug. 22, said those who took the one-shot Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccines might eventually need another dose for more robust protection against coronavirus infection.
“We believe that J&J recipients will likely need a booster, but we are waiting on some data from the company about the second dose of J&J so the FDA can fully evaluate the safety and efficacy of that dose,” he said in a CNN interview.
His remarks came after the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said on Wednesday, Aug. 18, that the third vaccine doses would be available in the United States beginning next month.
In its statement, the HHS confirmed that the data they reviewed showed the vaccines’ efficiency (Pfizer and Moderna), even in preventing severe illnesses and deaths, could “diminish in the months ahead, especially among those who are at higher risk or were vaccinated during the earlier phases of the vaccination rollout.”
Regarding the J&J doses, the HHS said there would be high potential that those who took the single-shot vaccine would also need another inoculation, but further data needed to be evaluated.
The J&J vaccine was temporarily postponed from being rolled out in the U.S. this year due to reports of the dangerous blood clots reported as a side effect, but officials later resumed administering them. Last month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also warned of a link to a rare neurological disorder as a side-effect that could happen to recipients.
When asked about the safety of a booster shot, Murthy reiterated that the final decision would be issued by the FDA and the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] Advisory Committee.
“Safety is absolutely essential in this process, and we would not execute a plan if the FDA did not weigh in and say that that third shot was in fact safe,” Murthy said, according to The Hill.
The surgeon general said studies concerning mixing between vaccine brands for the third COVID-19 vaccine shot are being carried out. According to Murthy, that includes what would happen if a J&J recipient was later injected with a Pfizer or Modera vaccine.
“And so as soon as those studies are done, we’ll have more to recommend to J&J recipients about the timing of a booster and which shot they should get,” he said, noting that the results of the studies would be presented to the FDA.
The HHS announcement recommended that people seek the third dose of the vaccines at least 8 months after their initial round of immunization.
The move for the booster shot came out amid the period that the U.S. is fighting its new COVID-19 wave fuelled by the Delta variant, which by far had brought countries previously taking pride in containing the virus’ spread down to their knees—even despite their harsh lockdown attempts such as in Australia.