MediaFrolic’s Michel Martin speaks with Norman Baylor, former director of the FDA’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review, about the differences in booster recommendations for the COVID-19 vaccines.
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Let’s start today with this new information about coronavirus vaccines and booster shots. It’s been coming in quickly in the past few weeks and can be confusing. So here we are now. Emergency booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine were approved last month for those aged 65 and over and for other people at increased risk of COVID. Last week, a panel of experts advising the Food and Drug Administration made a similar recommendation for Moderna booster vaccinations. And then the same panel announced that recipients of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine aged 18 and over are eligible for a second vaccination.
We asked Norman Baylor to help us with all of this. Baylor is President and CEO of Biologics Consulting. He holds a PhD in molecular biology and is a past director of the FDA’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review. This is how he explains the FDA panel’s recommendation of a second Johnson & Johnson dose for anyone who got the first shot.
NORMAN BAYLOR: You may recall that the Johnson vaccine was less effective than the Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer vaccine. So there are some concerns about diminishing immunity. And once you start with the lower potency, you may need a booster. When this vaccine was developed, part of their study included a two-dose vaccine. But given the timing of their vaccine and when their dates came out, there was debate that we were getting better effectiveness than we expected for either of those vaccines, so maybe that one dose would be enough. But we are now seeing that the results are actually much better with the two doses of the Johnson vaccines.
MARTIN: So how about mixing and matching different vaccines? The question came up during the FDA panel discussion last week. And there have been studies showing that people who received the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine in combination with a Pfizer or Moderna booster had a stronger antibody response. Is it safe? I mean should people try this method?
BAYLOR: No, it’s – I mean – even though we know people already do. But we don’t have enough data right now to make that decision. The only thing that I think is the most challenging is for you to look at the science, and preliminary science says you see this surge in antibodies. But can you make a public health decision at this point? Or do we need additional data, safety data and effectiveness data to make this decision? I mean, people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine might be better off boosting them with one of the mRNA vaccines. But it is still early to make a regulatory decision about whether or not to go in that direction.
MARTIN: Because the vaccines work differently.
BAYLOR: The vaccines work a little differently. But there are reservations about the study. Again, I think it’s important to understand that this study was designed for a public health decision. It was not possible to compare one group with the other.
MARTIN: That was Norman Baylor. He is President and CEO of Biologics Consulting. He is the former director of the FDA’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review. Norman Baylor, thank you very much for talking to us today.
BAYLOR: It’s my pleasure.
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