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April 20, 2021

Is mix and match of different COVID-19 vaccines beneficial to us?

National

April 20, 2021

KARACHI: At a time when a vast majority of people in Pakistan are desperately trying to get vaccinated at the earliest, some people are looking for the opportunity to get vaccinated with two or more types of vaccines but is it recommended or even safe for them to mix and match the COVID-19 vaccines.

“There is no harm in getting vaccinated with more than one vaccine. It is even beneficial for the person who is getting more than one type of vaccines for protection against COVID-19”, was the response of eminent physician and Vice Chancellor, University of Health Sciences (UHS), Lahore Prof Javed Akram when he was questioned by The News about the issue. Prof Akram is the Principal Investigator of phase III clinical trials of two Chinese vaccines including single-dose Convidecia by CanSino Biologics Inc and triple-dose vaccine developed by Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical Company Limited. He said although no conclusive evidence of mix and match of different vaccines is available as yet, but there is still no harm in getting jabs of different vaccines. “Whether it is the new mRNA vaccines like Pfizer-BioNtech or Moderna or the conventional Chinese, Russian or British vaccines, there is no harm if a person gets inoculated by more than one vaccine. it is in fact beneficial,” he declared. The UHS Lahore Vice Chancellor, who is also the President of Pakistan Society of Internal Medicine (PSIM), said that several countries including United States, United Kingdom and China were conducting human trials by applying more than one vaccine to assess if they generate a better immune response as compared to a single vaccine. To a query, Prof Javed Akram said in Pakistan scenario, if one gets inoculated by the two-dose Chinese Sinopharm, he or she 'can also' go for the Russian Sputnik V vaccine which is privately available.

He said that no country has so far declared 'any particular vaccine mandatory' and it is likely to remain this way in the rest of 2021, but hastened to add no one can predict the future in the rapidly-changing world.

Another public health expert Dr. Shahzad Ali Khan was of the opinion that currently it is not recommended to get inoculated by multiple Covid-19 vaccines, emphasising at the moment only one vaccine should be taken for protection against the coronoavirus contagion. “But trials are underway all over the world to assess if mix and match of different vaccines can offer more immunity against Covid-19,” Dr. Shahzad Ali Khan, who is head of Department of Public Health at Health Services Academy (HAS) Islamabad, said.

When asked if European states or US government could ban the entry of people not vaccinated by some particular vaccines, he opined that initially they will only ask for vaccination certificate as at the moment, there is an extreme shortage of vaccines globally, besides no single vaccine has proven to have 100 percent efficacy against the pandemic.

Against that backdrop, at this point in time particularly in 2021 it is unlikely that any one vaccine is specified. Currently the emphasis is “to get any vaccine.” However, once majority of the world gets vaccinated in the coming years, developed world may designate selected vaccines as an immigration requirement.

“Currently we all have to get the available ones asap. Some protection is much better than No protection at all. Chinese also give good protection, especially Sinopharm. Later on the US or European Union may ask for a specific vaccine. But that is unlikely to happen in 2021. Could be sometime later,” Dr. Khan added.

But the renowned infectious diseases expert associated with Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) Dr Faisal Mehmood was more cautious in responding whether a person could get more than one types of vaccine for protection against COVID-19, saying: “These mix and match studies are being done around the world. Results are awaited”

When asked if a person could get more than one vaccines in Pakistan, he responded: “This is a good question as it is linked to Nadra. From what I understand they cannot as the system will not allow it. They may do it unofficially”. An official of the national immunization program said there was no hindrance in getting private vaccine after getting inoculated with the Sinopharm or CanSino’s vaccine which were being administered at the government-run Adult Vaccination Centers (AVCs) in the country.