People who received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine have been curious about what's next for booster shots. Despite controversy about mixing and matching vaccines, experts say that doing so could improve immunity.
Will there be a Johnson & Johnson booster shot, or should people go with another option if the FDA approves mixing and matching?
NIH study says there are better options than the J&J booster
According to federal scientists at the NIH (National Institutes of Health), mixing and matching booster shots is a good option for people who initially received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The NIH tested combinations of vaccines from Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer. All of the combinations increased antibody levels, which provides better protection against COVID-19. However, Moderna and Pfizer had better results. The study says that it's more effective for Johnson & Johnson vaccine holders to get a Moderna or Pfizer booster.
Pfizer and Moderna are both mRNA vaccines, while Johnson & Johnson uses virus-based technology. Boosting with mRNA options seems to increase immunity in Johnson & Johnson recipients.
Controversy about "mixing and matching"
Currently, the FDA has only authorized booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine for at-risk populations including people 65+ years old. The person must have received the Pfizer shot originally in order to be eligible for the booster.
However, there has been a lot of talk about booster shot accessibility. The FDA is currently meeting to discuss potential booster shot authorizations. Johnson & Johnson is up for discussion on Oct. 15.
"These data suggest that if a vaccine is approved or authorized as a booster, an immune response will be generated regardless of the primary Covid-19 vaccination regimen," the study says.
Will the Johnson & Johnson booster be available at all?
If Moderna and Pfizer boosters are better than Johnson & Johnson, will the FDA approve a Johnson & Johnson booster at all?
It's possible, especially if the country wants to increase booster availability. However, the FDA pulled Johnson & Johnson after the shot showed a rare risk of blood clots in women under 35 years old. The FDA will have to look at the data to see if the reward outweighs the risk.
When to expect for booster shots
Currently, Pfizer boosters are available for certain populations, but it's possible that the FDA will open up booster eligibility to parts of the general public.
Moderna is on the docket on Oct. 14. President Biden is expected to address the public after the meeting. The government will discuss Johnson & Johnson on Oct. 15, after which the FDA will announce its decisions.
The rate of people getting booster shots is outpacing unvaccinated people getting their first shots. In the U.S., an average of 362,000 people per day received boosters over the last week. That's more than the 231,000 unvaccinated Americans per day getting their first shot. As of Oct. 13, 12 percent of immunized people eligible for the Pfizer booster have received their third shot.