Dr. Fauci Says Doing This With Your Booster Creates More Antibodies
The chief medical adviser says the levels of protective proteins "go up higher" in this case.
As of Oct. 20, single-dose boosters shots for all three COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States had been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The news cleared up many questions for people who were initially living with uncertainty after Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients were left waiting for a green light from the agency. But at the same time, the approval of mixing and matching vaccines by the FDA opened up a whole new line of questions for people looking for the most protection from their shots. And while officials haven't specifically endorsed one type of shot over another, Anthony Fauci, MD, chief medical adviser to the White House, says that doing at least one thing when getting your booster has been shown to generate more protective antibodies.
During an appearance on ABC's This Week on Oct. 25, host George Stephanopoulos pressed Fauci to explain if there were any benefits to seeking out a different type of shot for your booster than the one you originally received. While he said the latest authorization merely provided the flexibility in terms of availability of doses, those who received Johnson & Johnson initially might see a more significant immune response if they opted for an mRNA vaccine for their second shot.
"If you look at the level of antibodies that are induced—if you originally had [Johnson & Johnson] J&J, and you get, for example, a Moderna or a Pfizer, the level of antibodies, namely, the proteins that you would predict would protect you, those levels go up higher with the Moderna boost to J&J than the J&J boost," Fauci explained.
"However, it's a little bit more complicated because, in the clinical trial that J&J did, the clinical effect of the second dose of J&J was quite substantial," he then clarified. "So, it really becomes an issue of, what's the most convenient? What do you feel is best for you?"
Fauci's comments echo data from one recent study preprinted on Oct. 13 on medRxiv, which found that those who got Johnson & Johnson received much higher antibody levels from boosters of the mRNA vaccines. Specifically, while a second Johnson & Johnson shot boosted their antibody levels four-fold, these recipients saw a 35-fold rise from Pfizer and a 76-fold rise from Moderna.
But while Fauci may have stopped short of recommending one type of booster shot over another, others have felt more comfortable expressing their opinions. Jyotsna Shah, PhD, virus expert and president of IGeneX Laboratory, recently told Best Life that she advises Johnson & Johnson recipients to get a booster from one of the other two vaccines. And unlike the authorizations for those who received initial doses of Moderna and Pfizer which is limited by age or risk factor, all Johnson & Johnson recipients who are at least two months out from their initial shot can get a booster under the FDA and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) authorization.
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"For those who initially received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, I would recommend seeking out the Moderna or Pfizer booster," Shah says. "Firstly, because it seems that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine's efficacy has waned faster than either Moderna or Pfizer. Secondly, because there is evidence to show that mixing vaccine types can be highly effective."
Ultimately, Fauci said that the decision on which shot to get begins and ends with each person and their specific needs. "If you have any questions about it, you consult your physician," he told Stephanopoulos. "I think the good news about this…is that it allows a considerable degree of flexibility for people to get what we hope they will get, namely, a booster that will increase and optimize their protection."