The Biden Administration announced this week that people who receive two doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines will be able to receive a third dose eight months after receiving their second dose. On September 20th, those additional doses will begin. The second and third doses of the vaccine will likely be released in the same order as the first, with the elderly and health care workers being first in line. When will Johnson & Johnson booster vaccines be approved and recommended, if at all, for the 14 million Americans who received that single vaccine?
The short answer is: we do not yet know, and we should expect to learn more in the coming weeks, says Timothy Brewer, MD, UCLA professor of medicine and epidemiology. He says there is no data yet [on the J&J vaccine’s long-term effectiveness] on the Johnson & Johnson booster. Once the Johnson & Johnson data is in hand, I expect booster recommendations to apply to them as well.”
Due to mRNA vaccine distribution beginning two months after J&J vaccine administration began, we don’t yet have this data. Several side effects also temporarily halted it. In a White House briefing on Wednesday, surgeon general Vivek Murthy, MD, said that the J&J vaccine was not administered in the U.S. until March 2021. The public will be notified about the J&J boosters shots in a timely manner once we have the data in hand.”
As you wait for your booster, Dr. Brewer offers some clarity and comfort to J&J vaccine recipients. Even though data on J&J is limited (only 10 percent of the population has received the vaccine), studies have shown that while it was somewhat less protective against infection than the other two U.S. jabs, it was equally effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death.
Yet, you might wonder if another booster would be better – such as Pfizer or Moderna – since they’ll likely be available earlier and offer more protection. Despite having stronger immune responses, data display those who mixed an adenovirus-based vaccine like J&J (in this case, the AstraZeneca vaccine was studied, not J&J) with an mRNA vaccine also experienced more side effects. An epidemiologist’s recommendation: Wait until more data is available before mixing dose types.
If you have not yet been vaccinated at all, Dr. Brewer strongly advises you to get the J&J vaccine as soon as possible, even after one dose. This means that if you have not yet received a vaccine, you should thoroughly consider doing so. In addition to Johnson & Johnson, people who think about vaccinating but may have difficulty taking two doses of vaccine can consider other vaccines, he says.
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