Mix-and-match COVID-19 booster could offer strong immune response, studies say

Health officials are also encouraging unvaccinated people to get first shot

Federal health officials announced Thursday that COVID-19 vaccine booster shots will soon be available to the public.

President Joe Biden said the shots will start to be administered to the general public the week of Sept. 20.

[TRENDING: Daytona officer dies after June shooting | See Spaceship Earth in new light | When’s next rocket launch in Fla.?]

Dr. Michael Lauzardo, deputy director of the UF Emerging Pathogens Institute, said protection from vaccines wanes over time, making it necessary to get a third shot about eight months after the second one.

“Most of the decisions in terms of the intervals and how frequent and how many you get are based on the data,” Lauzardo said.

Meanwhile, questions are swirling about the unknowns surrounding whether it’s safe or effective to mix and match the brands of booster shots.

“The thought is that if you get an mRNA vaccine, that’s either Pfizer or Moderna as that third dose, the benefit is probably greater,” he said. “In other words, the mRNA vaccines have the strongest immune response of all the available vaccines that are available for COVID now.”

Data shows a mix-and-match approach still provides a strong immune response.

“There is some data that has come out and some studies have shown -- in the UK in particular -- that you can mix and match different vaccines,” Lauzardo said.

He said guidance has not been released about those who opted for the Johnson & Johnson, but he expects that to come out soon.

“Most people in the country got Pfizer or Moderna, far outnumbering those who got Johnson & Johnson. The review of the data and the analysis will focus on what has the biggest impact on the most number of people,” Lauzardo said.

He said the health community’s focus is on the unvaccinated population.

“My real priority is what we are looking at in the state of Florida. We still have 40% of the population that has not had a single dose, and that is the population that continues to drive the pandemic,” he said.