Why isn’t AstraZeneca used as Covid booster jab – and can you have Pfizer after AZ doses?

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The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, or JCVI, has advised that only some vaccines should be used in the booster jab programme, as Britain attempts to offer one to all adults by the end of January to tackle Omicron

A vial of Moderna
A vial of Moderna

It was announced this week that all adults in the UK are now eligible to book their Covid-19 booster jab, as fears surrounding the new Omicron variant set in.

Previously, boosters had only been offered to those over the age of 40 but now, in an unprecedented push, the government has announced it aims to have offered the jab to all over 18s by the end of January.

In order to achieve this it hopes to vaccinate 500,000 people a day, a drastic increase from the previous rate of around 350,000.

But in the push is a glaring omission: the AstraZeneca jab. The pride and joy of Britain’s contribution in the fightback against the virus, and the first vaccine to be approved for use in the UK, is nowhere to be seen.

Why isn’t AstraZeneca used as a Covid booster jab?

A mobile NHS Vaccination on Wheels team administer booster jabs
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Image:

Maureen McLean/REX/Shutterstock)

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, or JCVI, has said that only jabs using mRNA technology should be used for boosters. And, while this is employed in the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, it is not in AstraZeneca.

While traditional flu jabs function by introducing part or a diluted version of a virus into the body to provoke a reaction from the immune system, mRNA vaccines work differently.

These vaccines function by instructing the body to reproduce the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 and then break it down through an immune response.

This type of technology has been in trial for many years, but only with the arrival of the virus has it been green lit for use. The mRNA technology has been touted as a solution for a number of ailments, including some cancers.

Despite using similar technology, the Pfizer/BioNTech has been identified as the ideal vaccine to priorities in the booster jab campaign, although a half does of Moderna can also be used.

This is because studies have found that the Pfizer jab led to the biggest booster response of seven vaccines options trialled, and is 95.6% more effective than having two jabs.

AstraZeneca will still be available for anyone who is allergic to parts of the Pfizer/BioNTech or mRNA vaccines

Can you mix vaccines for your booster jab if you had AstraZeneca?

It doesn’t matter which vaccine you’ve already had as Pfizer/BioNTech is the preferred booster, say the JCVI, with a “mix and match” approach not regarded as an issue.

In September, the JCVI said: “mRNA vaccines provide a strong booster effect, regardless of whether the primary course was with the Pfizer-BioNTech (BNT162b2/ Comirnaty) or the AstraZeneca (ChAdOx1-S/Vaxzevria) vaccine.

“These results are consistent with those from other studies that examined the effect of half dose (50µg) Moderna (mRNA-1273/Spikevax) vaccine following primary courses of full or half doses of Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccination.

“A half dose (50µg) of Moderna (mRNA-1273/Spikevax) vaccine given as a booster was found to cause a similar level of local and systemic reactions to vaccination (injection site pain and headache) compared to a full dose of Moderna (mRNA-1273/Spikevax) given as a second dose.”

Despite many falling ill following their first and second doses, experts say people shouldn’t worry to any greater extent this time around.

Speaking to the Mirror, Dr Reena Virdi said: “People have already had the first two doses of the vaccine, which have given you initial immunity from coronavirus. This is just boosting what you already have, there isn’t anything new for the body to react to.

“There’s nothing to say you’re not recommended to work or drive following the booster vaccination.

“Though, you may want to take it easy or let your boss know so that you’re not pushing yourself if you are feeling a bit rough.”

“You can’t really predict the side effects you’re going to get with the vaccine.

“You may have no problems at all, while others may have a few days of feeling a bit achy. However, that usually subsides within about 24- to 48-hours.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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