Recipients of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine should not be concerned about the shot's lower efficacy now that boosters have been recommended, White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
"I think that they should feel good about it because what the advisers to the FDA felt is that given the data that they saw, very likely this should have been a two-dose vaccine to begin with," he said Sunday.
The FDA vaccine advisory panel unanimously recommended booster shots for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine Friday. The panel recommended all J&J recipients 18 years and older to get an additional jab as early as two months after the first dose -- key differences from their recommendations for the Moderna and Pfizer boosters which were only for Americans 65 and older or in higher risk groups.
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The decision came days after early data released from a National Institutes of Health study found that boosting with a different shot than one's original vaccine appears to be safe and effective. The data, which is not yet peer reviewed, also found that for J&J recipients, antibody levels were higher if they received a Moderna or Pfizer booster rather than a J&J booster.
Raddatz pressed Fauci on whether mixing and matching vaccine boosters for J&J recipients would be a better idea.
“But, Dr. Fauci, the panel was also looking at new data that suggest J&J recipients may be better off getting a booster shot from the more effective Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Is that a better solution?" Raddatz asked.
“That is true, the data you refer to, that if you boost people who have originally received J&J with either Moderna or Pfizer, the level of antibodies that you induce in them is much higher than if you boost them with the original J&J,” Fauci said.
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He went on, “However, you’re talking about laboratory data, which very often are reflective of what you would see clinically. But the data of boosting the J&J first dose with a J&J second dose is based on clinical data. So what’s going to happen is that the FDA is going to look at all those data, look at the comparison and make a determination of what they will authorize.”
Fauci added that the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will give people the flexibility to mix and match vaccine boosters based on their individual health situations.
Now that the FDA has recommended J&J boosters for a wider group of Americans, the question turns to when Moderna and Pfizer boosters will be expanded to the general public.
Fauci said that will depend on the data being collected by the CDC and the findings coming in from Israel, which is about a month ahead of the U.S. in its vaccine rollout.
As for vaccines for children ages 5-11, Fauci said the FDA is on track to approve the Pfizer vaccine in early November.
With kids eager to go trick-or-treating and the holidays right around the corner, Raddatz also asked Fauci about his guidance for celebrating the upcoming holidays.
“I believe strongly that -- particularly in the vaccinated people, if you’re vaccinated and your family members are vaccinated, those who are eligible, that is obviously very young children are not yet eligible, that you can enjoy the holidays,” he said. “You can enjoy Halloween, trick-or-treating and certainly Thanksgiving with your family and Christmas with your family.”