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With the new coronavirus variant in the US, doctors and public health officials are strengthening their call for coronavirus boosters as maximum protection against severe COVID-19 disease.
With the expectation that omicron would reach the US and add to the wave of COVID-19 cases , the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week that all US adults “should” get a booster. (Though all adults have been eligible since mid-November, the CDC previously split hairs over who “should” get one and who “may” get a booster.) to be as protected as possible this winter through the same health measures that’ve been used throughout the pandemic to curb infection. While scientists need more time to determine if omicron is as contagious as it seems — likely more so than delta but less severe in disease ( is encouraging, but not definitive) — health officials say the same measures used to curb previous variants will also be effective against omicron.
“We know what we need to do to protect people,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, . “Get vaccinated if you’re not already vaccinated. Get boosted if you’ve been vaccinated for more than six months with an mRNA (Pfizer or Moderna) or two months with J&J (Johnson & Johnson).”
The booster rollout, and the idea of giving extra shots to otherwise healthy adults, has been a controversial one. Just have received a coronavirus vaccine, according to Our World in Data. The Biden administration has said the US can continue vaccine donations to other countries while also providing boosters to Americans, 1.2 billion doses. On Tuesday, White House COVID-19 Response Team Coordinator Jeff Zients said the US has now of COVID-19 vaccine
All adults can get in the US as a booster shot — a “mix and match” approach to COVID-19 vaccines. Currently, the CDC doesn’t have a “” on one booster over the others — noting that it’s generally recommended to stick to the same brand for primary and second vaccine series, but people can choose whichever booster they’d like or is available to them.
Here’s what we know now about mixing COVID-19 vaccines and how to choose your booster.
Are the boosters effective against omicron?
Pfizer and its partner BioNTech that two doses of their vaccine appear to be less protective against COVID-19, but a booster dose restores some of that power. Officials at BioNTech that the companies could have an omicron-specific vaccine ready by March 2022, if research shows it’s needed. it’s studying the effectiveness of its vaccine and could make an omicron-specific vaccine if necessary. said it’s working with officials in South Africa to evaluate its vaccine’s effectiveness and also started work on a vaccine specific to omicron, if it’s needed.
In an from Nov. 28, Fauci said that even in the face of a variant of concern, you do well against it if you have the increased protection of a booster. “It may not be as good in protecting against initial infection, but it has a very important impact on diminishing the likelihood that you’re gonna get a severe outcome from it,” he said, adding that boosting gives an “extraordinary increase in protection.”
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What’s the difference among the COVID-19 vaccines?
While all three vaccines have the same effect — protection against severe COVID-19 disease — the way they function is a little different. Pfizer and Moderna are mRNA vaccines, which and build immunity against a virus. Johnson & Johnson is a viral vector vaccine, which to activate an immune response and tell our bodies what to fight in future infections.
Both vaccine types prepare our immune systems for COVID-19 infection, and .
What are the benefits of ‘mixing and matching’ COVID-19 boosters?
Individual choice in boosters means health care providers can make recommendations based on patients’ circumstances. A member of the CDC’s advisory panel, which meets prior to recommending a vaccine or booster, pointed out at a meeting about mixed boosters that allowing it could lead to if health care providers only have to open one bottle of vaccine for patients in the waiting room, for example. Hopefully, more flexibility with boosters will lead to an easier vaccination process in places that administer many doses at once, such as nursing homes. People may also opt for a different vaccine if they’re at higher risk for a rare side effect from a particular vaccine.
In a study published in the journal Nature in May, researchers in Spain found that people who received one dose of AstraZeneca (a similar vaccine to Johnson & Johnson) and then received a dose of Pfizer seem to produce a . It isn’t clear whether this group had a higher immune response than people who received two doses of Pfizer.
Research published recently in The Lancet (which tested seven vaccines from around the world as boosters, including the three available in the US) showed that is effective, with mRNA vaccines .
funded by the National Institutes of Health prior to the CDC’s recommendation also found that mixing vaccines is safe and effective, or perhaps even beneficial in some cases.
According to on primary series and booster choice the CDC is collecting, over 4 million Americans so far have opted for a different vaccine brand as a booster. (Most have chosen their original vaccine as a booster.) However, there isn’t a lot of data on mixing COVID-19 vaccines in the US because it hasn’t been allowed until recently. Information from outside the US has been promising, though, as other countries have been officially allowing (or even recommending) people receive two different vaccines, including .
Which booster shot should I get if I got Pfizer?
Both mRNA vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, have proven to be effective and continue to protect against severe disease caused by COVID-19. A in September that compared vaccine effectiveness among adults in the real world found that two doses of Moderna’s vaccine were 93% effective at preventing hospitalization, two doses of Pfizer were 88% effective and one dose of Johnson & Johnson was 71% effective.
Pfizer’s booster is the same dose as its original vaccine (30 micrograms), while Moderna’s booster (50 micrograms) is half the size of its original vaccine. Johnson & Johnson’s booster is also the same size as its original vaccine. In a study that examined , people who originally got Pfizer had the strongest antibody response to a Moderna booster. However, that study examined a full dose of Moderna (100 micrograms), rather than the authorized half-dose of the company’s booster, which likely , The Atlantic reported.
For most adults who were vaccinated with Pfizer, sticking with another dose of Pfizer makes the most sense, Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of UC San Francisco’s Department of Medicine, .
“I got Pfizer and stuck with getting another Pfizer — just seemed simpler. Why introduce a new agent into my body for probably zero, or maybe tiny, benefit?” he told the LA Times. “But if your goal were to give yourself any possible advantage in immunity, you can make an argument to switch to Moderna.”
If you’re in a group that would benefit most from every inch of immunity (which includes the elderly and people with health conditions that make them most susceptible to severe COVID-19), it might be worth a quick call to your health care provider to discuss your personal circumstances. However, the urgency of a new variant might also influence your decision, which includes what’s available to you the soonest.
What if I got Moderna?
Similar to Pfizer, most Moderna recipients probably don’t have a need to choose a different booster, unless how quickly they can get an appointment is an issue.
There might be exceptions — if you had an allergic reaction to Moderna’s vaccine, for example, you should consult a doctor and choose a different vaccine for future shots. An on Canadian data also suggested Moderna might carry a higher risk of myocarditis, an of the mRNA vaccines mostly seen in men under 30, compared to Pfizer. With this assumption, a man under 30 who originally received Moderna but is concerned about myocarditis may ask a health care provider about switching to Johnson & Johnson or Pfizer. But again, Moderna’s booster is a smaller dose than its original vaccine, which could be a factor in your decision.
Which booster should I get after J&J?
Some public health experts have argued that a second shot for people who got Johnson & Johnson is more like completing the series, rather than getting a booster. In a clinical trial shared by Johnson & Johnson, a second dose of J&J two months after the first shot made the vaccine . However, some experts also argue that Johnson & Johnson recipients are better off choosing either mRNA vaccine while pointing to a different study that showed following a boost of mRNA vaccine compared with a boost of J&J. (Antibody response is , however.)
of the availability of other vaccines, the CDC says, because they’re at an increased risk for the rare but serious blood-clotting disorder associated with J&J’s vaccine (which isn’t seen with Pfizer’s or Moderna’s). For example, Dr. Leana Wen, physician and public health professor at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University, detailed her decision to get a Pfizer booster after being vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson in a .
Older men who might be at an increased risk of the associated with J&J’s vaccine may also choose another type of vaccine. In general, people who originally received Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine and have a that makes them more susceptible to severe COVID-19 should be especially aware of the benefits of mixing with an mRNA vaccine and the higher immune response it seems to bring.
Do I have to get a booster?
As of now, the CDC’s recommendation is that all adults in the US “should” get a booster. This is because even if the omicron variant lowers the efficacy of the vaccines, scientists expect COVID-19 vaccines to remain protective against severe disease.
Before omicron, earlier in November, the CDC advisory panel voted unanimously to recommend boosters for all adults, but they also acknowledged that some people need them more than others. The guidance was that people age 50 and older “should” get a booster (a younger age than the previous guidance for everyone age 65 and older), in addition to other groups who “should” get one because of a clearer benefit, including adults living in and everyone who received Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. For all other adults, the choice was more dependent on personal circumstances or preference.
Are you fully vaccinated after your booster?
Importantly, the definition of fully vaccinated hasn’t changed. You’re two weeks after your second Pfizer or Moderna shot or two weeks after your Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Whether someone has received a booster doesn’t affect their “fully vaccinated” status.
Can I mix and match the first two shots?
No, the CDC’s statement on mixing COVID-19 vaccines only applies to boosters. As of now, the FDA has only authorized a mixed-series booster, meaning the first coronavirus vaccine series must be one dose of Johnson & Johnson or two doses of Moderna or Pfizer.
Once the mixed-series boosters start rolling out to Americans in greater numbers, there will be more data on the safety and effectiveness of a mixed COVID-19 series. Although it might be too early to hope, this might mean that data on mixing for boosters will inform decisions on primary coronavirus vaccine series being used together, making it easier to reach underserved communities, and possibly reducing health care and vaccine inequity.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
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