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DHS explains FDA’s approval of mixing and matching shots

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services discusses mixing and matching shots.
(WTVY - Kinsley Centers)
Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 8:05 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 25, 2021 at 6:57 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - As the vaccine rollout continues across the country, the FDA approves booster shots from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, adding the pair to the booster shot from Pfizer. The FDA also approved of getting whichever shot is available, or “mixing and matching.”

That means the booster shot does not need to match your original shot. According to the FDA and CDC, it is safe to mix and match shots.

Specialists, like Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ryan Westergaard at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, say that this method is safe. However, health specialists have yet to recommend a specific combination.

“They’re not recommending that people use a different combination of vaccines, and we don’t have any evidence that one mixture or one regimen is better than any other,” said Dr. Westergaard.

Right now, health officials stress the most important thing is getting the booster. Health specialists say the availability should dictate the shot you get, recommending getting whichever shot you can in your area.

Dr. Westergaard says approval for mixing and matching is something learned during clinical trials. The data gathered there dictates the timelines that each pharmaceutical company recommends to the FDA.

“Recommendations are based on the science that’s been generated as we’ve observed these first six to nine months after the vaccines have been in use,” said Dr. Westergaard.

The immune response from clinical trials is also how specialists concluded that mixing and matching vaccines and booster shots is safe.

Who is eligible for the booster shot

There still are restrictions on who qualifies and when for a booster. Starting six months past their last Pfizer or Moderna vaccination, people are urged to get a booster if they’re 65 or older, nursing home residents, or at least 50 and at increased risk of severe disease because of health problems. Boosters also were allowed, but not urged, for adults of any age at increased risk of infection because of health problems or their jobs or living conditions. That includes health care workers, teachers and people in jails or homeless shelters.

Moderna’s booster will come at half the dose of the original two shots.

As for recipients of the single-shot J&J vaccine, a COVID-19 booster is recommended for everyone at least two months after their vaccination. That’s because the J&J vaccine hasn’t proved as protective as the two-dose Moderna or Pfizer options.

The CDC panel didn’t explicitly recommend anyone get a different brand than they started with but left open the option — saying only that a booster of some sort was recommended. And some of the advisers said they would prefer that J&J recipients receive a competitor’s booster, citing preliminary data from an ongoing government study that suggested a bigger boost in virus-fighting antibodies from that combination.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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