The US launches a one-of-a-kind trial that will tell us whether mixing vaccine booster shots is a good idea

  • The US is testing if mix-and-match booster vaccines for COVID-19 work, and are safe.
  • A NIAID-backed trial will test giving a dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 shot to fully vaccinated people.
  • The people may have previously received vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer, or Johnson & Johnson.
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US scientists could soon work out whether it’s a good idea to mix vaccines to boost the body’s immune response to the coronavirus.

Fully vaccinated Americans will be given an additional third “booster” dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in a trial to see if it works and is safe, the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) said in a press release Tuesday.

Participants will have had any of the COVID-19 vaccines available in the US, from Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson, the NIAID, which is funding the research, said. 

About 150 volunteers would take part, it said. Most would be split in three according to which vaccine they’ve received, and then each group split again into two age categories — 18 to 55 years-old, and over 56s. 

A final group of people who aren’t vaccinated would receive all three doses of Moderna’s vaccine during the trial, NIAID said. 

The trial is the first of its kind, and designed in a way that other vaccines can later be added to the “mix,” NIAID said. The results are expected later this year.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director at NIAID, said in the press release that “the results of this trial are intended to inform public health policy decisions on the potential use of mixed vaccine schedules should booster doses be indicated.”

“The US needs to “prepare for the possibility of needing booster shots to counter waning immunity and to keep pace with an evolving virus,” Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor, said.

COVID-19 vaccine booster shots

It’s not clear from the press release why Moderna’s vaccine was chosen to be the third booster dose, but Moderna is furthest along in booster-shot trials.  

Both Pfizer and AstraZeneca are working on booster shots, but haven’t yet formally reported on their trial results.

Moderna said at the start of May that early trials showed an additional third dose of the company’s vaccine boosted antibodies, which are a part of the immune response. The trials included a vaccine that had been tweaked specifically to tackle the variant first found in South Africa. All Moderna’s booster vaccines were generally well tolerated with similar side-effects to a second dose of the vaccine, Moderna said at the time.

Stephane Bancel, CEO at Moderna, said in April that he hoped to provide booster shots to the US later this year.

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