NEW YORK (PIX11/NewsNation) — U.S. health advisers are expected to authorize a “mix and match” approach to COVID booster shots this week when they give full approval for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster shots, according to a new report from the New York Times.
An FDA panel endorsed both J&J and Moderna boosters after meetings last week. Now, the Times reports that the agency plans to allow Americans to receive a different vaccine for their booster shot than the original vaccine they first received.
The FDA is expected to grant full authorization to the booster shots by Wednesday evening. After that, the CDC’s advisory panel would meet on Thursday to make its own recommendations.
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. “Mxing that dose is extremely effective and providing additional protection.”
Approving the “mixing and matching” of boosters would give health care providers greater flexibility and access, and the science so far seems to support it. Full FDA and CDC approval could come as soon as the end of this week, immediately expanding booster eligibility for tens of millions of Americans.
A recent study by the National Institutes of Health found that people who got the J&J vaccine who then received a Moderna or Pfizer booster shot, had significantly higher antibody levels, compared with getting a J&J booster. While it found that mixing vaccines provided strong protection, so 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 The results of the study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, can be seen below.
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 and Johnson vaccine recipients, protection gets even better with one dose of an mRNA vaccine, the studies found.
“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.”
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.
The FDA and CDC fully authorized Pfizer’s booster shot in late September for at-risk adults and those 65 and older. Moderna and Johnson and 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. The FDA has said it would not recommend one booster shot over another.
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.
President and CEO of University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, Dr. Shereef Elnahal spoke with NEWS10’s affiliate in New York City to clear up some of the COVID confusion among “mixing and matching” boosters.
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