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No, health agencies aren’t recommending supplemental MRNA dose for Johnson & Johnson recipients

The San Francisco Health Department is offering J&J recipients a supplemental dose of Pfizer or Moderna. But, experts caution the safety of mixing vaccines.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — COVID-19 boosters are boosting a lot of questions to the forefront of claims needing verification. The North Carolina Health Department -- and many others -- have authorized clinics to offer third doses of Pfizer and Moderna to people with compromised immune systems.

But, what about the thousands of people who got the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) -- the single-dose vaccine? So far, there is no additional dose available for them.


In a major U.S. city, J&J recipients do have an option right now. The San Francisco Health Department is allowing anyone who got the J&J vaccine to get a supplemental dose of an MRNA vaccine -- Pfizer or Moderna. The caveat is they must talk to their doctors first.

So, should everyone who got the J&J vaccine get a supplemental MRNA, if the option becomes available to them?



This is false.

No, there is not a federal, state or pharmaceutical recommendation for supplementing a J&J shot with an MRNA. The San Francisco Health Department isn't even formally recommending it, and it's not widely available as an option. If you got the J&J, it's best to wait for guidance from the FDA and CDC.


The CDC says there is not enough data to support getting an MRNA vaccine dose on top of the J&J vaccine. The San Francisco Health Department is not even formally recommending it -- rather, the deputy director said it's accommodating requests for it. So, why did this idea even originate?

Research shows J&J has a lower efficacy than Pfizer or Moderna. Mayo Clinic reports it is initially 66% effective at preventing COVID-19, compared to 91% with Pfizer and 94% with Moderna. But, all three drug makers note the vaccine can weaken over time, hence why they acknowledge the potential benefits of boosters.

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As of now, the CDC says it's likely people who received J&J will need a booster dose. But, because the J&J came out last, there's not enough data to make that decision.

Infectious diseases physician Chris Ohl, MD, acknowledged, "Some communities are offering a third messenger RNA (MRNA) vaccine to people who've gotten the J&J vaccine. I'm not totally sure that's necessary..."

He noted he also does not think it will become the norm.

"I don't think we're going to see a specific recommendation for providing a messenger RNA vaccine on top of one single J&J vaccine, largely because there's just not much data to know how well it works and about the safety issues," he said.

And, the J&J vaccine is different from Pfizer and Moderna. The CDC explains J&J is a 'viral vector' vaccine, which uses a modified version of a different virus to give instructions to our cells. Pfizer and Moderna are MRNA, which teaches our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. The CDC says the vaccines are not interchangeable -- at least not yet.

Regardless of pending decisions on extra doses, experts emphasize the initial vaccine significantly reduces your chances of serious illness and death from COVID-19. And, if you haven't been vaccinated yet, they say not to get caught up on brand or efficacy -- the best one is the one first available.

If you see a claim on social media, and you want it verified, send a screen shot and short paragraph or selfie video of the question to Meghann Mollerus via:

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