Covid vaccine update: Mix and matching vaccines may enhance protection says professor

This Morning: Expert on ‘mix and match’ vaccine approach

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To ensure the vaccine rollout in the UK does not prove a logistical nightmare, policymakers have considered mixing and matching vaccines to smoothen the process. While this makes sense logistically, it may also serve a scientific purpose. As immunologist Professor Danny Altmann explained on ITV’s This Morning, it has been suggested that mix and matching can enhance immunity.

Referring to the possibility of combining vaccines, he said there is “no reason on earth why you can’t”.

“On other hand you might drive your GP mad if you ask for it because the current guidance says to not combine vaccines,” Professor Altmann joked.

However, as he explained, there is no scientific basis for not discussing the possibility.

In fact, the very possibility is being actively studied by researchers in the UK.

Early in February, researchers in the UK launched a study that will mix and match two COVID-19 vaccines in a bid to iron out logistics of immunising millions of people.

The study will also determine whether combining vaccines will boost immune responses in the process.

As an article in the journal Nature reports, the clinical trial is testing participants’ immune responses to receiving one shot of a coronavirus vaccine produced by Oxford and drug firm AstraZeneca — which uses a harmless virus to carry a key coronavirus gene into cells — and one shot of the vaccine produced by drug company Pfizer, which uses RNA instructions to trigger an immune response.

As the journal article points out, the ability to mix and match vaccines could make vaccination programmes more flexible: it would speed up the process and reduce the impact of any supply-chain disruptions.

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“It really makes the implementation much more simple,” said Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England, at a press briefing on 3 February.

Oxford has said that it will also trial combinations of its COVID-19 vaccine with the Russian coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V, which uses harmless viruses to shuttle components of the coronavirus into cells.

According to the journal article, some researchers also think that combining two vaccines could strengthen immune responses by harnessing the best features of each.

That would be particularly desirable now that vaccine developers are combating coronavirus variants that seem to be partially resistant to certain immune responses, said Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts.

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