Is it OK to mix Moderna, Pfizer in updated COVID booster shots?

As residents prepare to roll up their sleeves for a third, fourth, or even fifth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, some may be wondering: do I need to stick with the same brand, or is it safe to mix them up?

When it comes to the new COVID-19 Omicron bivalent booster, the answer is yes, you can mix and match.

You can get either the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna version, regardless of which offer you received previously.

“The best booster for you is the one you can get — either the Pfizer or the Moderna can be used, and they can be mixed or matched,” said Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, epidemiologist and infectious disease expert at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “If one is scarce, don’t hesitate to take the other.”

Mix and match

Suppose a person received three cans of the Moderna shot. Should they stick with Moderna or mix it up with a Pfizer booster?

The effect on the body’s immune system should be similar in both cases, wrote Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, infectious disease expert at UC San Francisco, in a tweet.

“It’s okay to combine Moderna and Pfizer,” said Dr. Ralph Gonzales, associate dean of clinical innovation and chief innovation officer at UC San Francisco, at an on-campus town hall last week. “I just got my Moderna two days ago and it was an interesting experience. I’ve definitely felt a stronger reaction with the Moderna – having previously had Pfizer – but both combinations are fine.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration actually allowed mixing and matching of COVID-19 booster doses starting last year after allowing people to get their first booster dose. Despite having a choice, many people stayed with the brand.

But others have changed it, either out of preference, availability, or recommendation. For example, many of those who originally received Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine opted for the booster shot from Pfizer or Moderna.

What’s next

When some people – those in their 50s and those with compromised immune systems – were eligible for a second conventional booster shot earlier this year, some opted for the other brand. dr Robert Wachter, chairman of the UC San Francisco School of Medicine, opted for his fourth shot of Moderna in April after three consecutive Pfizers.

“I looked at it as a throw,” he said tweeted back then.

The updated bivalent Omicron booster vaccine is available to individuals 12 years and older. Adults can choose between Pfizer and Moderna; Youth ages 12-17 are eligible for Pfizer only.

LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said there is an expectation that the updated booster shot might be available to children ages 5 to 11 as early as October.

Officials are urging people to get the updated booster, which they expect will reduce the risk of infection. It’s called a bivalent shot because it’s designed to protect not only against the original coronavirus strain, but also against the latest Omicron subvariants that have dominated the nation this summer, including BA.5.

“The bivalent boosters offer protection against the subvariants that are currently circulating at the highest levels, and they will be one of our best tools in planning for a safer, healthier, and happier fall and winter vacation season,” Ferrer said Thursday. Is it OK to mix Moderna, Pfizer in updated COVID booster shots?

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