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SAN DIEGO – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reviewing a new study showing that mixing and matching COVID-19 vaccines is safe and effective.

Researchers will be presenting the data to an FDA panel on Friday. It is anticipated that the panel will decide whether the Johnson & Johnson booster shot will be approved or if they’ll be mixed and matched with offerings from Pfizer and Moderna.

“This is what we call heterologous vaccinations,” said Dr. Edward Cachay, an infectious disease specialist at UC San Diego, “meaning that people receive a differing class of vaccine that they didn’t receive at the very beginning.”

The preliminary study done by the National Institute of Health monitored 458 people and showed that mixing and matching vaccines boosted immune response. Cachay said that the strength of the study shows that regardless of the initial vaccine received, “the rate of tolerability is similar (and) the side effects are mild.”

The study found that people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine produced a stronger immune response when given a Pfizer or Moderna booster.

For those who mixed and matched Pfizer and Moderna, their immune response was similar.

Cachay said the study is critical because it provides people with some options.

“It is extremely important because there are circumstances where there is a shortage of vaccines – not only our city, our country – but other parts of the world,” he said. “There are clinical circumstances when someone is concerned about clots – whether minor or more common side effects and they have an alternative for receiving additional protection.”