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Study tests mixing and matching COVID vaccines in fully vaccinated Americans

U.S. health officials have begun a clinical trial of adults fully inoculated against COVID-19 receiving a different coronavirus vaccine booster shot, the National Institutes of Health announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: The study will examine the effectiveness of mixing different coronavirus vaccines in terms of immune responses, safety and how they hold up against emerging variants, per a statement from the NIH.

  • Per a statement from NIAID director Anthony Fauci, "Although the vaccines currently authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration offer strong protection against COVID-19, we need to prepare for the possibility of needing booster shots to counter waning immunity and to keep pace with an evolving virus."
  • If booster shots are required, this study could help health officials decide which vaccine combinations are best.

Details: The study will examine150 volunteers who've received one of the three COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. — Johnson & Johnson's, Moderna's and Pfizer-BioNTech's.

  • Each vaccine group will enroll some 25 people between the ages of 18 and 55 years and about 25 people in the 56 years and older age group.
  • "Twelve to 20 weeks following their initial vaccination regimen, participants will receive a single booster dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine as part of the trial," according to the NIH.
  • Another aspect of the study will see volunteers who've yet to receive a coronavirus vaccine enrolled. Initially, they'll receive the two-dose Moderna vaccine before receiving a booster dose of a vaccine about 12 to 20 weeks later. 

The big picture: Research indicates that all three vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. protect against variants, to varying degrees.

  • The Public Health Agency of Canada updated its coronavirus vaccine guidance on Tuesday to permit Canadians to receive a different dose for their second shot, though it still recommends using the same brand.
  • Health officials in the United Kingdom are expected to release initial results this summer of a clinical trial testing the effectiveness of mixing COVID-19 vaccines.

Go deeper: Vaccine boosters could be necessary as soon as September

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