FDA OKs mixing-and-matching COVID-19 booster shots; La Crosse expert says it comes with advantages

FDA decision will allow patients to receive a booster made by any of the three companies that produce COVID-19 vaccines

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) —  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 booster shots, and gave the go-ahead to mix-and-match boosters Wednesday.

This means the FDA’s decision will allow patients to receive a booster made by any of the three companies that produce COVID vaccines.

“You can get a different booster if you want, but we’re going to recommend sticking with the same brand if you can,” CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus said Tuesday.

La Crosse expert Dr. Erin Morcomb says mixing boosters can have some advantages.

Data show getting a booster from a different brand could elevate a person’s antibody response even more than if they matched doses, said Morcomb, Mayo Clinic Health System physician.

Mixing boosters also provides more flexibility, she said.

“If there’s a place that doesn’t have either Pfizer or Moderna available, it’s nice to be able to give the patients what they have on hand at different sites,” Morcomb said.

Morcomb says it’s an added benefit to get a booster of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine if your first dose was the J&J shot.

Although the J&J vaccine still provides strong protection from infection — about 66 percent — it is the least effective of the three.

“Most of the data was looking at people who got a first dose of Johnson & Johnson — and then boostered with either Moderna or Pfizer — and saw a significant increase, especially with the Moderna vaccine,” Morcomb said.

In the future, it may be possible to mix and match first and second doses, she said.

“The data isn’t really in on that yet,” she said. “The study that was presented recently to the FDA was just with that third, booster dose.”

And for those who can get a booster, Morcomb believes mixing doses would be a safe bet.

“The side effects seen with mixing and matching have not really shown any difference between patients that got the same dose of the vaccine series,” Morcomb said.

Before people can get the Moderna or J&J boosters, the CDC is first going to discuss with an expert panel this week on how they should be rolled out.

Booster doses are also not available to the general public, and Pfizer’s booster is the only one available right now.

According to the CDC, those who can get boosters are people 65 and older, are immuno-compromised, or work in places with high exposure.

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