UVA Health experts provide insight on mixing and matching vaccines

Published: Oct. 23, 2021 at 10:54 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially endorsed and recommended booster shots for all three brands of the COVID vaccine this week.

It approved mixing and matching boosters with your original dose, as well.

“What should you get as a second vaccine really becomes a personal decision,” Dr. Costi Sifri with UVA Health said. “I think there’s probably not a specific right answer that’s clear to me now. It’s probably just important that second vaccine is obtained.”

Doctors at UVA Health say there’s still a lot to learn about which vaccine is most effective when it comes to mixing.

“This is your immune system kind of getting the same booster, the second dose, in a slightly different package,” Dr. Patrick Johnson with UVA Health said. “Your immune system will handle it the same way it handled the first dose and so I think there’s every expectation that mixing and matching is going to be effective, and it’s nice to have some data suggesting that’s true.”

That data comes from the National Institute of Health’s study, as well as practices overseas.

“Those who got one type of vaccine and decided to get a different type of vaccine, that actually is very effective,” State Vaccine Coordinator with Virginia Department of Health Dr. Danny Avula said. “Mixing and matching the different types of vaccine show good antibody responses will be very protective against the severe consequences.”

Mixing and matching allows for convenience, but it also could increase antibody levels.

“For example, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and followed up with either the Pfizer or Moderna, the antibody levels after that are excellent,” Sifri said. “In fact, they’re ten fold higher than if you did Johnson & Johnson followed by Johnson & Johnson.”

But Sifri says with even with those higher antibody levels, they don’t know if that translates to less disease, or a shorter duration of sickness.

“The information around mixing and matching is of the information we have, some of the newest and most incomplete,” Sifri said. “Thus far, it’s very encouraging.”

Since it is still so new, there are questions that have not been answered.

“What we don’t yet know is a clear pathway so if I got Pfizer, What’s the best booster for me to get and if I got Johnson Johnson, what’s the best piece,” Avula said.

Doctors say the vaccine you choose to get for your booster is more of a personal decision right now.

Avula says they’re expecting some more guidance from the CDC this weekend, or early next week.

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