Here’s why mixing and matching shots is likely superior than using just one brand

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Credit: Financial Times
Credit: Financial Times

Vaccinating people with both the Oxford–AstraZeneca and Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines produces a potent immune response against the virus SARS-CoV-2, researchers conducting a study in Spain have found.

Preliminary results from the trial of more than 600 people — announced in an online presentation on [May 18] — are the first to show the benefits of combining different coronavirus vaccines. 

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The Pfizer–BioNTech booster seemed to jolt the immune systems of the Oxford–AstraZeneca-dosed participants, reported Magdalena Campins, an investigator on the CombivacS study at the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona, Spain.

After this second dose, participants began to produce much higher levels of antibodies than they did before, and these antibodies were able to recognize and inactivate SARS-CoV-2 in laboratory tests. Control participants who did not receive a booster vaccination experienced no change in antibody levels.

That is what researchers hoped for and expected from mixing different vaccines, a strategy known as a heterologous prime and boost, which has been deployed for vaccines against other diseases, such as Ebola.

“These responses look promising and show the potential of heterologous prime–boost regimens,” says [Beth Israel Medical Center’s] Dan Barouch.

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