Mixing vaccines? There's a long history

Countries around the world have recently issued guidelines on mix-and-match Covid shots, but the idea of combining vaccinations goes back to the 1980s.

Around the world, from Finland to China to Canada (where I live), countries have issued guidances on whether it’s possible to receive a second Covid-19 vaccine that is different from the first one you get. Meanwhile, multiple studies in different continents are trying to assess whether mixing vaccines this way gives good protection — and if it might even perhaps surpass the immunity one might get from just one kind of shot. For a pathogen like Covid, the protection given from many vaccines is already superb, but this mix-and-match approach might hold more promise for particularly tricky viruses, like H.I.V.

The history of mix-and-match vaccination goes back at least to 1987, when immunologist Dr. Daniel Zagury became a participant in his own study. He received a version of a virus that was engineered to produce an H.I.V. protein in the body, and later got booster shots of the protein directly (rather than the engineered virus). His immune system showed signs of responding—including producing antibodies. Scientists have kept this idea in mind, and it continues to gain momentum. Mix-and-match H.I.V. trials are currently underway.

Why are scientists so interested in mixing different vaccine platforms? Some vaccines are well-equipped to stimulate “killer T cells” while others skew more heavily toward creating antibodies to combat invading viruses. Combining them might help. You can read more in my latest article in The New York Times: Pfizer, AstraZeneca … or Both? A Mixed Approach May Hold Promise. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/13/opinion/covid-vaccine-research-mixing.html

On a different note, in case you missed it, I recently guest-hosted the WNYC radio show On The Media, which is broadcast to more than 400 stations. It was a dream of a lifetime to get to work with the team there and produce an hour of radio interviews with amazing guests. If you’re curious, please have a listen to the program here: Not a Perfect Science https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/otm/episodes/on-the-media-not-perfect-science

(it’s also available on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/not-a-perfect-science/id73330715?i=1000523455668).

Thanks for reading and for listening.

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