This article is a part of a series by The Better India to share verified information about COVID-19 care. While several posts on various aspects of fighting COVID-19 are being circulated on social media and messaging services like WhatsApp, we urge you not to trust unverified content. To separate fact from fiction, we will be sharing the videos and content with doctors and experts and bring you their responses with scientific research-backed information.
That we have to get vaccinated to fight COVID-19 is a given. So far, those eligible and getting vaccinated have been getting both shots of the same vaccine producer. However, on 27 May, NITI Aayog member V K Paul, in a press conference said, “Any person getting different vaccines in the two slotted doses is not a cause of concern for that individual.”
This announcement comes right after villagers in Uttar Pradesh’s Siddharthnagar district, were given a dose of the Covishield vaccine for the first dose and Covaxin for the second dose at a government hospital.
Dr Vikas Maurya, Director and Head of Department, Pulmonology, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, and Dr Sunil Nigam, Senior Consultant – Internal medicine (Physician), Diyos Hospital, Delhi, help us understand the ramifications, if any, about taking different vaccines.
1. Can one mix and match the vaccine shots?
Dr Maurya: The announcement made by NITI Aayog member V K Paul comes after the UP incident. He said that it was not a cause for concern as the two doses would not have any interaction with each other. There are some studies underway about mixing and matching of the vaccines. We do need more conclusive studies to understand whether mixing and matching of vaccines boosts the response or lowers the response.
At the moment, it would be advisable to stick to the same vaccine for both the doses.
Dr Nigam: According to the most current guidelines from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a lack of available safety data means COVID-19 vaccines should not be mixed.
In an attempt to create more flexible COVID-19 vaccination programs, certain countries and health organisations are conducting research to discover the effectiveness of combining two different vaccines.
However, by using two different vaccines there is not going to be a greater magnitude of protection against the disease but can only help to vaccinate a larger number of people in absence of a consistent and adequate availability of a particular type or brand of vaccine.
2. In your opinion, can one take two different shots? Covishield and Covaxin?
Dr Maurya: Since we do not have enough data to allow for the mix and match of vaccines, it would be better to stick to the current protocol. Do not try to use vaccines interchangeably.
Dr Nigam: It is not recommended to mix Covishield and Covaxin. However, future research may lead to better understanding of the subject leading to changes in these recommendations.
3. Are there countries where this has happened?
Dr Nigam: In an attempt to create more flexible COVID-19 vaccination programs, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is conducting research to discover the effectiveness of combining two different vaccines.
It’s called the Com-COV study, and it’s raising important questions, like whether this can increase or decrease vaccine effectiveness. The two vaccines used for this study are from AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech.
4. Can a COVID-19 survivor take only one vaccine dose?
Dr Nigam: The US’ Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that a person get completely vaccinated with both the doses starting immediately after recovery from COVID-19, while the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that a person should wait six months as natural antibodies seem to likely persist in the human body until then.
That’s because experts do not yet know how long one is protected from getting reinfected with COVID-19.
Even if someone has already recovered from COVID-19, it is possible, although rare, that they could be infected with the SARS-COV-2 virus again.
It is important to note that people who were treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Currently, there are no recommendations of a single dose after recovery from COVID-19 infections.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)