The European Union's health bodies on Tuesday recommended that mixing and matching of approved COVID-19 vaccines can be done for both the initial courses and booster doses, as the region battles rising cases ahead of the holiday season.
Evidence suggests that the combination of viral vector vaccines and mRNA vaccines produces good levels of antibodies against the coronavirus causing COVID-19, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in a statement.
Their endorsement comes after a major study on Monday said a first dose of AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech shots followed by a Moderna vaccine nine weeks later induced a better immune response.
The United States has given the green light to mix-and-match, while the World Health Organization is also assessing the approach.
Longevity of protection offered by vaccines has been under scrutiny and the world is scrambling to trace the Omicron variant as governments are imposing fresh restrictions. Official rollout of vaccines for 5-11 year olds will start next week in Europe.
"The use of heterologous schedules may offer flexibility in terms of vaccination options, particularly to reduce the impact on the vaccine rollout should a vaccine not be available for any reason," the EMA and ECDC said.
The recommendations are also meant to help EU member states with their own vaccination campaigns before any formal EU-wide approval as the health agencies continue studying data on mixing vaccines.
(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel) ((Pushkala.A@thomsonreuters.com; Twitter: @pullthekart; Mobile: +91 852 751 3793 ;))