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Health officials fear J & J vaccines will go to waste

As The Bahamas races to get 20,000 doses of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine into arms before they expire at the end of this month, health experts in some countries believe the severity of COVID-19 from the Omicron variant could be low due to vaccination.

The new variant is rapidly spreading to countries around the world and local health officials predict it is only a matter of time before the new variant is confirmed in The Bahamas.

As scientists work feverishly to find out just how effective the vaccine is against Omicron, health officials believe the COVID vaccines still offer the best protection against severe disease and hospitalization, especially with a third dose.

Though over 143,000 Bahamians are fully vaccinated, vaccine hesitancy remains high in the country. Statistics prove that the overwhelming majority of Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths in The Bahamas were people who were either unvaccinated or only had one dose of the vaccine.

Forty-five of the 49 people who died from COVID-19 at Princess Margaret Hospital in October were unvaccinated, data from the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) shows.

181 people were hospitalized with COVID at PMH in October.

One hundred and sixty-seven of them, or 92.3 percent, were unvaccinated. Six people who were hospitalized were partially vaccinated.

Though new Covid-19 cases have decreased dramatically in recent weeks, fear is mounting over a possible fourth wave of infections in the new year as well as Omicron’s transmissibility and severity.

While other vaccines require two doses between a three to seven-week period, the J & J vaccine is one shot, offering protection against COVID-19 two weeks after vaccination.

In collaboration with academic groups in South Africa and around the world, Johnson and Johnson has said it is evaluating the effectiveness of its COVID-19 vaccine across variants, including the new and rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

The company is testing blood serum from participants in completed and ongoing booster studies to look for neutralizing activity against the Omicron variant. It is also pursuing an Omicron-specific variant vaccine and will progress it as needed.

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