National Institutes of Health study finds ‘mix and match’ boosters are safe and effective

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — After months of research, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Wednesday announced that "mixing and matching" COVID-19 vaccines is safe, and effective.

News10NBC talked with two local doctors to find out what this means for those who have already been vaccinated, and when we could see a possible approval.

"Mixing and matching" is when someone gets a booster shot that’s different from the original dose or doses they first received in the vaccination series.

According to the NIH’s study, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines appear to develop a stronger immune response than that of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

News10NBC talked to Dr. Emil Lesho, an Infectious Diseases Specialist at Rochester Regional Health. Lesho said the announcement is good news, but also says the study still needs to be peer-reviewed.

"But the findings are potentially reassuring, and good news," Lesho said. "Regardless of which product it was the tolerability was very similar."

Lesho further explained the tolerability aspect of the booster.

"So if you got your first series, if you got a single shot of J & J, and you felt fine, or you felt rotten for a day or two you’ll feel the same way, no matter which one you get if you got Moderna, and now you get Pfizer, or whatever," Lesho said.

Testing for this study happened in selected cities all across the world, including right here in Rochester. University of Rochester Medical Center Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Angela Branche told News10NBC 100 volunteers from the Rochester area volunteered to receive a "mix and match" booster dose.

"Here locally I can say that we didn’t see any severe side effects associated with that process," Branche said.

Thursday, and Friday the findings will be presented to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for consideration of the authorization of a booster shot of both the Moderna and J & J vaccinations.

News10NBC asked Branche when the FDA might extend emergency use authorization.

"I think it’s likely in the next month or two that the FDA, and the ACIP probably will give guidance, and approve booster for people who previously received Johnson and Johnson, or Moderna, but it’s not gonna necessarily be everyone. Not everyone needs to be boosted right away," Branche said.

Current booster shots are only available to people 65 and older or who are immunocompromised or at risk of serious illness from COVID-19 who received their initial series of Pfizer vaccines more than 6 months ago. People who work in a field that puts them at risk for exposure are also eligible.