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Q&A: Do you need a vaccine booster shot? This Colorado man got his.

Anyone who received a Johnson & Johnson shot in San Francisco will be offered a dose of Pfizer or Moderna.

COLORADO, USA — The FDA announced that it could lay out a national strategy for COVID-19 booster shots by September, even as the World Health Organization (WHO) is seeking a stop on boosters to get more vaccines to countries that need more doses. 

The U.S. has not recommended booster shots for those who have been vaccinated. That said, some cities have begun administering them.

A dose of Pfizer or Moderna will be offered to anyone in San Francisco to those who received a Johnson and Johnson shot.

Craig Smith, a resident of Mesa County, recently decided to take matters into his own hands and get a booster shot. He previously got the Johnson and Johnson but signed up for a Pfizer vaccination at an area pharmacy. The pharmacy's vaccine questionnaire doesn't ask if the person already received a dose of Johnson and Johnson but instead asks about Pfizer or Moderna.

"Everything that I had heard from what my sources are, are that Pfizer and Moderna have proof that shows there more effective against the Delta variant and that Johnson and Johnson appears to be less effective," Smith said. "So I just felt like, for me, it was the right thing to do."

9NEWS Health expert Dr. Payal Kohli weighed in on the issue.

Should someone who received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine get a booster shot?

Kohli: I would say, as an individual if I had received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, I probably would go and get one of the messenger RNA [Pfizer or Moderna] shots as a booster while I’m waiting for more information to come in that is because there is good scientific evidence that getting a DNA vaccine like the Johnson and Johnson followed by an mRNA vaccine-like Pfizer, for example, could actually boost your antibody levels ten-fold.

But I don’t want people to feel totally bummed if they got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because studies are showing even though the antibody response appears to be higher in response to the messenger RNA vaccine, there’s other types of immune responses, such as the T-cell that are actually a little bit better with the J&J vaccine. So you actually might end up in the best of both worlds; if you end up getting your DNA, talk to your doctor and get a booster of a messenger RNA because you’ve the benefit of both vaccines.

What are the downsides of getting a booster shot?

Kohli: So every time we activate the immune system we potentially increase risk for complications because when the immune system gets activated, it can get over-activated and start to attack itself which could cause autoimmune disease or inflammatory complications such as myocarditis or some of the others that we heard of.

If someone does plan to get a booster shot of Pfizer or Moderna, should they get one dose or two?

Kohli: The studies that have been really done have looked at the hetero, meaning matching, one dose of the DNA and one does of the messenger RNA, and the interval that they’ve looked at has been about four weeks from the first shot to the second shot, so we don’t exactly know the answer to the right time period between your DNA shot and messenger RNA shot and we also don’t know what dose we need to get. But presumably, because it’s a booster and you’re really trying to boost the immune system than have it learn something all over again, from a scientific perspective, one shot should probably suffice, but more information is needed on that.

Before you go and sign up though, I would strongly urge you to talk to your doctor because there is risks to every intervention that we do, so discuss it with your doctor, talk about the risks and benefits and then make that decision as a team.

Do you think the U.S. should be encouraging booster shots while WHO is seeking more initial doses for several countries? 

Kohli: That's the ethical question. We’re starting to line up for Round 2 when there’s still some countries that haven’t even had access to Round 1, so certainly, that gives me a little pause, but I would also say here in the United States, we’re also discarding many vaccine doses that are not being used.

Do we expect more cities to offer COVID-19 vaccine boosters for people that are immunocompromised?

Kohli: We really do expect to see that, and that’s because there’s also scientific data that tells us that immunocompromised people that get three shots have a similar response to non-immunocompromised people who get two shots, so there really has already been a precedence in the immunocompromised population to go ahead and get the third shot of the vaccine.

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