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Combining two kinds of COVID-19 vaccine 'should work quite well': expert

Last Updated Apr 26, 2021 at 8:38 pm PDT

FILE -- Syringes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine sit in a tray in a vaccination room at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Quebec recently announced plans to give some people who got the Moderna vaccine a Pfizer booster

An expert says all the vaccines on the market essentially work the same way, sees no reason not to mix and match

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A UBC immunologist says he doesn’t see any harm to mixing and matching COVID-19 vaccines, in fact he thinks it could help.

Dr. Kelly McNagny, a professor in the Department of Medical Genetics, says regardless of the brand name — all the shots work the same way.

“Speaking as an immunologist what I can tell you is there’s really no reason why being primed with one vaccine and then boosted with a different vaccine should cause a problem, they actually should work quite well,” he says.

“All vaccines have part of the virus that you make a response to. Then they’ve it got a little something that causes a bit of inflammation to tell your immune system to wake up and start making a response. Those two components are in every one of the vaccines that you would get. In fact, it’s possible that getting primed with one, and then a second stick with another one might actually prove beneficial in some cases, because it just wakes up your immune system in a different way that gives you maybe a broader response.”

Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends the same vaccine be used for both doses, but they say if the vaccine used for the first dose isn’t available or unknown, the second dose should be a vaccine that uses the same technology. The effects of this approach are currently being studied in the UK, with results expected this summer.

McNagny says he’s more worried about the timing of doses than he is about mixing and matching.

“That boost, what it does is, it cements memory for the virus. When you get that second shot, that’s what protects you for the rest of your life, essentially,” he says.

“The only thing that I would be remotely concerned about is a long delay in getting a second boost. The bottom line is, whatever vaccine you have accessibility to right now you should definitely get. ”

RELATED: Canada’s vaccine panel stands by decision to delay second doses of COVID shots to four months

Last week, Quebec announced plans to give long-term care residents who got the Moderna vaccine a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine due to supply issues. This approach allows vulnerable seniors who got their first dose about 100 days ago to get a second shot. With variants of concern circulating, and infections continuing to be recorded in care homes the province has decided to “mix and match” so people can get immunized before the 112-day interval they recommend between doses has passed.

On April 16, Procurement Minister Anita Anand announced that incoming shipment of COVID-19 shots from Moderna had been cut nearly in half, with Canada expected to receive 650,000 doses instead of approximately 1.2 million through the end of the month. The same day, the prime minister announced the country will be getting more doses of Pfizer-BioNTech in the coming months.

McNagny notes the issues with supply the country is facing, as another reason why combining two types of jab could be beneficial.

“The vaccines are kind of tough to come by logistically. It’s kind of tough to get the same thing back to the same place, to make sure the same person is getting the same vaccine. If we couldn’t mix and match then the logistics become less of a problem,” he says.

With files from The Canadian Press