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Countries Considering Mixing Covid-19 Vaccines

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As countries race to inoculate citizens with Covid-19 vaccines to reach herd immunity, some countries are considering mixing different vaccines. This is due to vaccine shortages which are causing delays in countries vaccination rollout plans.  

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned countries that this could be dangerous. Virologist Prof. Barry Schoub, who serves as Chair of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 vaccines, says that mixing vaccines can be complicated. 

Schoub explained that the only mixture of vaccines that have been found to be safe and effective is with the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines. He said ‘If you start with AstraZeneca and you follow it with Pfizer Boost’ it can be effective. However, if this sequence is reversed and you start with the Pfizer vaccine followed by an AstraZeneca jab, while still safe, the same immune response will not be achieved. 

Schoub said that there is only data available on the mixing of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines. In South Africa, the only two vaccines being given to members of the public are the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) and Pfizer vaccines.

The  J&J vaccine only requires a single dose, while the Pfizer vaccine requires two doses. He believes that while new data can emerge, South Africa should stick to its current vaccination rollout plan. He advised that if you have already received your first Pfizer dose, it's best to wait for your second dose.

When addressing the concern of vaccine side effects, Prof. Schoub said ‘about ten to twenty percent of people have side effects’ adding that these side effects are ‘usually very mild’. These side effects include tenderness or pain in the arm, headaches and fatigue. Schoub says that these side effects "can be safe to use common analgesics ...paracetamols and aspirins if necessary" as it will not affect the immune response to the vaccine.

Schoub believes that the vaccine shortages are due to a limited supply of vaccines and global competition for the available jabs.  

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