NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Food and Drug Administration is planning to give Americans a lot more freedom to get a vaccine booster different from the one they first received.

This comes after a new so-called “mix-and-match study” found some surprising benefits to changing up boosters, CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported Tuesday.

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It has been the source of much confusion for vaccine recipients and frustration for public health officials, confusion because as boosters were being authorized you weren’t sure whether to wait for your original jab or jump at whichever version was available. There was also frustration because health officials couldn’t easily plan for supply availability.

Then there’s the science.

“So there was absolutely no data proving either that it was safe to mix and match or that the immunity boost from giving another type of vaccine was equivalent and safe, and that is why we always shied away,” said Dr. Bruce Farber, chief of infectious diseases at Northwell Health.

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But now a small, new federally funded study is providing some preliminary answers.

It found that recipients of Johnson & Johnson‘s single-dose shot who received a Moderna booster saw their antibody levels rise 76-fold in 15 days, compared with only a 4-fold increase after an extra dose of Johnson & Johnson. A shot of the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine also raised the antibody levels of Johnson & Johnson recipients more than a second Johnson & Johnson did, although not as much as Moderna, Gomez reported.


Still, the federal government has said it will not recommend any specific combination of vaccines and boosters. Farber said there’s not enough data yet.

“The new data at least suggests that there’s nothing horribly wrong with mixing and matching. In some instances, the antibody response might be paradoxically better, and there does not seem to be any significant safety problems,” Farber said, adding, “These studies were small, and I don’t think there’s any magical combination that came out of these small studies that were basically done to just look at some basic antibody and toxicity studies.”

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The study also only looked at antibody levels, just one component of vaccine immunity. Still, the Centers for Disease Control is expected to take up the booster issue Thursday and issue its own recommendations. So, it’s likely that by the end of the week, tens of millions more Americans could be eligible for more shots.

Dr. Max Gomez