Mixing vaccine brands should be safe, former COVID testing chief says

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(WETM/NewsNation Now) — The Food and Drug Administration could endorse mixing COVID-19 vaccine brands as early as this week, according to a new report from The New York Times. Experts in the Twin Tiers say the mRNA vaccines are inherently stronger than the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“Really you’re comparing two doses of an mRNA, which is a stronger vaccine with one dose of J & J,” Dr. John Moore, Weill Cornell Medicine professor, said.

For those who received Johnson & Johnson, they will potentially have a choice for their booster dose: an additional Johnson & Johnson shot or Moderna. The Trump administration’s testing chief said it would make sense based on recent data.

“The only question is the studies have been relatively small and is it safe, but everything I’ve seen so far suggests that it’s safe,” Dr. Brett Giroir said on NewsNation’s “The Donlon Report” on Monday. “And mixing that dose is extremely effective and providing additional protection.”

A study endorsed by the National Institutes of Health found that mixing vaccines provided strong protection, as did sticking with one brand for the entire course. The results of the study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, can be seen below.

According to local officials, there have been breakthrough cases in the Twin Tiers and most of them were from residents who received the one-dose vaccine.

“I can tell you that there have been breakthrough infections in vaccinated individuals, and we’re seeing a lot more if you’re comparing the vaccines to those who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” Dr. Justin Nistico, infectious disease expert at Arnot Health, told 18 News.

American health leaders at first advised against straying from the prescribed dose schedule for each brand when the vaccines were rolled out. But studies have shown mixing the mRNA vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer doesn’t result in any safety or efficacy concerns.

For Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients, protection gets even better with one dose of an mRNA vaccine, the studies found.

“I think it’s very clear that if you had J&J, you need a second dose,” Giroir said. “A second dose of J&J is very, very effective. They just presented that data. And it seems to be true that a second dose of Moderna or Pfizer could be even more effective than a second dose of J&J.”

With more options for booster doses, it will give vaccine providers the flexibility to stock fewer vaccine doses. It could also create added challenges in documenting which dose was received and when.

“It would allow providers like myself to really stock fewer vaccines and inventory,” Steuben County Health Director Darlene Smith added. “We just need to be extremely careful in the documentation of which vaccine each individual receives.”

Currently, only Pfizer vaccines have the full authorization of the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be given as a booster dose, and only some Americans are eligible. To get one, you must be 65 or older, or be 18 years or older and have an underlying condition or work or live in a high-risk setting. In addition, only people who have already had two doses of the Pfizer vaccine can get a third shot.

Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have submitted booster dose data to the FDA, but it has not given its endorsement yet. That is widely expected, however, after an FDA advisory panel voted to recommend the agency give the green light for both brands.

Giroir said Colin Powell’s death highlights the importance of booster doses for the vulnerable. Powell died Monday after complications from the virus that may have stemmed from his cancer — or possibly even his cancer treatment.

“This is the kind of person who’s at high risk, even though he has been vaccinated, and why these folks need at least three vaccines to get them in the ballpark of protection,” Giroir said.

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