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Can you 'mix and match' your COVID-19 vaccine?

Ohio vaccines
Posted at 6:17 PM, Aug 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-06 20:09:55-04

CINCINNATI — The Vaccine Research Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is one of five clinics looking to find out.

This “mix-and-match” trial, funded through the National Institutes of Health, is looking into the safety and effectiveness of getting one manufacturer's COVID-19 vaccine for the first round and then getting another manufacturer's vaccine for a second shot or possible booster.

"We're mixing things up, we're matching things and allowing us to be able to see, 'Does that change our immune response? Does it change our safety profile?' So we have the information,” said Vaccine Research Center director Robert Frenck.

The trial will look at various combinations, like two doses of Moderna and then a third dose of Pfizer, or a dose of Johnson & Johnson followed by a dose of Pfizer.

Frenck said he’s hopeful that mixing manufacturers will pan out, but he's waiting for the science to back up his hypothesis.

"As doctors, we think that's going to be OK, but as scientists we want to know that that's OK,” he said. "In a real-world setting, if you go into Kroger today and you got a Moderna vaccine, and you go to Walgreens and you got Pfizer, and some other pharmacy says, 'What did you get last time?' And you said, 'I don't know. I just got a vaccine.'"

More importantly than planning for future boosters, he said the main focus right now should be on people getting their initial vaccines.

"The far more important thing is to get the other 50 to 60% of the people who haven't had their primary series," he said, referring to the regimen of two shots necessary for the recipient to achieve the highest level of immunity.

At Mullaney’s Pharmacy in Pleasant Ridge, director of operations Troy Stinson is seeing an uptick in appointments.

"The last week or two, we're really having a lot of calls for it, people wanting to schedule appointments again,” Stinson said. "A lot of people recently have been getting the J&J because it's the one-time."

So far he hasn’t come across any questions or confusion about mixing the vaccines, but he does have advice for what to do when the time for boosters or a second shot comes up.

"Hold on to the card, bring it back in,” Stinson said. “And if you got the first one with us, it's in the system. And, honestly, we can search if you got it anywhere."

Right now the “mix-and-match” research is still in the clinical trial phase. The World Health Organization is advising people to stick to one manufacturer until more information is available.