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  • Ryan Wittler

A Study of Booster Shots Found Moderna or Pfizer Works Best


The results of a highly anticipated study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) were released on Wednesday, showing the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines produce a better immune response than a second dose of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine.

How they did it:

The study involved 458 volunteers divided into nine groups of roughly 50 each. People were given a booster of either the same brand of vaccine they originally got or one of the other brands.

The researchers found the people who originally received Moderna’s two-dose vaccine and then Moderna again as their booster, appear to have produced the best immune response. After that, it was Pfizer boosted by Moderna and then Moderna boosted by Pfizer.

The researchers also found that people who originally received the J&J single-dose vaccine produced better responses when given a Moderna or Pfizer booster.

The caveats:

First, the study is yet to be peer reviewed (though that’s not uncommon in the era of preprints). Second, while the researchers did find an increase in antibodies, that’s not a foolproof indicator of increased protection, and doesn’t give an indication of how long any potential protection would actually last. The researchers also tested full doses of all the vaccines, while Moderna is only seeking authorization of a half-dose for its booster.

The researchers also acknowledged other limitations like the timing of the boosters (people in the study got them four to six months after their original jab) and the fact that the vast majority of the volunteers were White.

In any case, other studies have shown mixing and matching vaccines appears to be safe and effective, and the data from the NIH study will be reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration later this week while it considers whether to authorize boosters of the Moderna and the J&J vaccines.

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