COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Millions of Americans could soon have the option of getting any COVID-19 booster shot, regardless of what they received for their initial doses. The FDA is expected to greenlight a process often called the ‘mix and match’ approach as soon as Wednesday.
“We know that it’s safe. There’s good data out there. It’s just a matter of having it go through the rigorous process we have in our country,” said Dr. Joseph Gastaldo, an infectious disease specialist with OhioHealth.
Canada and several European countries have already begun mixing and matching and a study from the National Institutes of Health found the practice to be safe and effective.
Some say the approach could streamline booster efforts, by allowing providers to use their current supplies. It could also help high-risk individuals boost their immunity sooner if they’ve received primary doses of Moderna or Johnson and Johnson.
Pfizer is currently the only brand authorized as a COVID-19 booster. The FDA and CDC outlined guidelines for only specific groups of people who qualify.
“Booster shots are really the best use for elderly people, specifically above the age of 65, those with weakened immune systems, those with medical conditions and those who are out in the public who have higher exposure may consider getting a booster,” Dr. Gastaldo explained.
By comparison, research has shown the Johnson and Johnson vaccine loses its effectiveness more significantly over time than the other two available vaccines. Dr. Gastaldo said J&J recipients could be good candidates for a mix and match booster.
“Johnson and Johnson, compared to the 3 we have available in our country, observational data shows it’s not really working the best – as far as keeping people out of the hospital,” he said.
An NIH study found J&J recipients who received a second dose of Moderna or Pfizer produced more antibodies than those who got the J&J booster.
The FDA has not recommended one shot over another. Dr. Gastaldo said the biggest priority should still be getting vaccination rates up.
“It’s still more important, from a public health perspective, to get vaccines into the arms of people who have not yet been vaccinated than to provide boosters for people,” he said.