Study finds ‘mixing and matching’ boosters safe, but Moderna, Pfizer are best

A vial of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

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Receiving a booster dose of a different vaccine than what was initially administered is safe and effective, though people who received Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine may get more benefit from a booster of an mRNA vaccine such as Pfizer’s or Moderna’s, according to data released Wednesday.

A highly anticipated preprint study on “mixing and matching” vaccines from the National Institutes of Health found that boosting with any of the three vaccines currently licensed or authorized for emergency use in the U.S. will generate an immune response.

However, people who received a booster dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines had a higher increase in their antibody responses more often than those who received an extra dose of J&J, according to the study, which has not yet been peer reviewed.

The results: People who received an mRNA-based booster vaccination had a four-fold increase in their neutralization response more frequently than those who were boosted with J&J’s adenovirus vaccine.

A booster dose of Moderna’s vaccine provided the highest boost of neutralizing antibodies in people who received any of the other vaccines as the primary dose. Those who received a prime dose of Moderna’s vaccine and the same booster had the highest levels of immune response. But the increase in immune response of a Moderna booster compared to a Pfizer booster was likely not significant enough to make a noticeable difference.

What’s next: The data from the study will be presented to an outside advisory panel of the Food and Drug Administration later this week as part of a series of meetings to consider requests from both Moderna and J&J to authorize booster doses of their vaccines.



But don’t dismiss the benefits of a booster dose of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. Despite the comparatively lower levels of antibodies, it may build up over a greater time period.

And overall, a second dose of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine is likely beneficial to recipients, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Wednesday, though the data is extremely limited.

In a briefing document released ahead of an advisory panel meeting later this week, the FDA said it relied heavily on studies conducted by Johnson & Johnson and could not independently confirm many of the findings because data from the trials were not submitted in time.

While the vaccine provides protection against severe disease for at least six months, the company said a decrease in protection over time against cases that include moderate COVID-19 was observed globally, which could be driven by waning protection or reduced efficacy against emergent SARS CoV-2 variants.

Johnson & Johnson said a booster is recommended “at 6 months or later, based on the strength of the immune responses” for people ages 18 and older. But it also suggested a booster may be administered as early as two months after the initial dose; the advisory panel will discuss that evidence during the meeting.

Significance: Taken together with the NIH study, the data could finally provide a path forward for the 15 million recipients of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. But it leaves the FDA panel to grapple with a similar question they faced when the J&J vaccine was first authorized: what is the role of a booster to a vaccine that’s less effective than others that are widely available?

WHO announces new team to study coronavirus origins

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The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday announced a new team to study the origins of the novel coronavirus.

Approximately 700 people applied for a spot on the team, with specialists in multiple fields included in the new group to satisfy those who believe the virus came from a lab in China.

The team will advise the WHO on investigations into future diseases as well as study the beginnings of the coronavirus.

“The emergence of new viruses with the potential to spark epidemics and pandemics is a fact of nature, and while SARS-CoV-2 is the latest such virus, it will not be the last,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Avoid politicization: The team is looking to be a more permanent body so it can avoid politicization in future pandemics, WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead told The New York Times.

“We want to take this back to the science, take this back to our mandate as an organization to bring together the world’s best minds to outline what needs to be done,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead told the newspaper

China and the World Health Organization released a scrutinized report earlier this year concluding the virus most likely came from wildlife instead of a laboratory.

An investigation by the U.S. intelligence community also said there was inconclusive evidence to determine if the virus came from wildlife or a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

White House tells states to prepare plans to vaccinate kids in coming weeks

The White House coronavirus task force on Tuesday urged state leaders to be ready to begin rolling out COVID-19 vaccination efforts for kids as early as the start of next month.

Administration officials told governors on a regularly scheduled call that school-aged kids could be eligible for the shots by early November and encouraged states to have plans in place to get them vaccinated, a source on the call confirmed.

ABC News first reported that pandemic response coordinator Jeff Zients told governors the White House has enough supply to inoculate roughly 28 million kids between the ages of 5 and 11.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday the administration is preparing messaging and outreach strategies to meet parents where they are and address any concerns or questions about getting their children vaccinated once the shot is approved.

“Parents are going to want to go and ask their doctor questions, ask their pediatrician questions, better understand the safety, the efficacy of the vaccine,” Psaki said at a press briefing. “What we will be doing is of course … empowering local medical experts, pediatricians, doctors who can speak to this, who can answer questions as they have them. We’ll be encouraging people to speak to their doctors.”

What’s next: Pfizer last week said it had submitted an application to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5 to 11. An FDA advisory committee is meeting to discuss the application on Oct. 26.



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October 15 (GMT)