J&J Covid vaccine recipients can get supplemental Pfizer or Moderna dose in San Francisco

People stand in line at the mass vaccination site at San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center that opened today for healthcare workers and people over 65 on February 5, 2021 in San Francisco, California.

Amy Osborne | AFP | Getty Images

The San Francisco Department of Public Health and Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital said Tuesday they are allowing patients who received Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose Covid-19 vaccine to get a second shot produced by either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.

J&J recipients can make a special request to get a “supplemental dose” of an mRNA vaccine, city health officials said in a statement to CNBC, declining to call the second shots “boosters.” J&J’s vaccine requires only one dose and recipients are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the shot.

On a call with reporters later Tuesday, San Francisco health officials said they are allowing patients to get the extra shots due to the high number of requests they were receiving from residents. They maintained that J&J’s vaccine is highly effective against the virus and its variants.

“We have gotten requests based on patients talking to their physicians, and that’s why we are allowing the accommodations,” said Naveena Bobba, deputy director of health at the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

Health officials said they do not recommend booster shots at this time, aligning with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This move does not represent a change in policy for SFDPH,” the public health department said in a statement. “We continue to align with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and do not recommend a booster shot at this time. We will continue to review any new data and adjust our guidance, if necessary.”

The CDC does not currently recommend Americans mix Covid shots in most circumstances, and federal health officials say booster doses of the vaccines are not needed at this time.

The announcement from San Francisco health officials comes as some Americans say they are finding ways to get additional doses of the Covid vaccines — with some even going as far as receiving the extra shots from different companies — due to concerns about the highly contagious delta variant.

Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Georgetown University, told CNBC last month that she received a booster shot of Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine in late June, two months after she got J&J’s single dose. She said she was concerned about her level of protection against delta after studies suggested a single dose of a Covid vaccine wasn’t adequate.

Since Rasmussen received her booster shot, a new study has suggested the J&J vaccine is much less effective against the delta and lambda variants than against the original virus. The researchers who led the study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, now say they hope J&J recipients will eventually receive a booster shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

The new research is at odds with a study from J&J, which found the shot is effective against delta, especially against severe disease and hospitalization, even eight months after inoculation. It is likely to reignite the debate of mixing and matching shots in the U.S. as the highly contagious delta variant continues to spread across the U.S.

J&J didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the announcement from the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

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