FDA approves mixing different COVID-19 vaccine boosters
In a long-awaited decision the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved "mix and match" COVID-19 vaccine boosters, meaning your third dose does not need to be the same vaccine brand as your primary course. Alongside this announcement the FDA also recommended booster shots for all Americans who initially received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“As the pandemic continues to impact the country, science has shown that vaccination continues to be the safest and most effective way to prevent COVID-19, including the most serious consequences of the disease, such as hospitalization and death,” says Janet Woodcock, acting FDA Commissioner. “The available data suggest waning immunity in some populations who are fully vaccinated. The availability of these authorized boosters is important for continued protection against COVID-19 disease.”
The latest FDA announcement does not alter recommendations for the populations currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccine boosters. For both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines those booster recommendations remain targeted at people over the age of 65, or those at a high-risk of severe disease either through illness or occupation.
But, for those receiving the J&J single-dose vaccine the FDA now recommends all adults seek out a second dose at least two months after their primary dose. This second dose can be any of the three currently approved COVID-19 vaccines.
“We are also taking action today to include the use of mix and match boosters to address this public health need,” says Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “We will work to accrue additional data as quickly as possible to further assess the benefits and risks of the use of booster doses in additional populations and plan to update the healthcare community and public with our determination in the coming weeks.”
The "mix and match" authorization comes after months of research consistently indicated booster doses with different vaccines generate similar, if not stronger, immune responses than primary courses with a single brand. A recent study produced by the National Institutes of Health affirmed mixing booster doses to be safe and effective.
The final step on the pathway to full booster access is advice from the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). The committee is set to meet later this week to issue its recommendations on booster policies.