DOH says 'prudent' to delay mix-and-match of COVID-19 vaccines

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 3) — Other countries are recommending the mix-and-match approach to COVID-19 vaccines, but now is not the time for the Philippines to follow suit, a health official said Saturday.

"Kami po ay nakipagpulong sa ating mga eksperto... kung saan ang sabi po nila it is prudent for our government to delay ito pong mixing and matching," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a briefing.

[Translation: We met with our vaccine experts, and they told us it is prudent for our government to delay this mixing and matching.]

Vergeire's remark came after Germany said people who receive a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine "should get an mRNA vaccine as their second dose, regardless of their age." 

Researchers from the University of Oxford in Britain have found that mixing and matching Pfizer and AstraZeneca shots induced a strong immune response against the coronavirus. 

But they noted the antibody levels were higher when the AstraZeneca shot was given as the first dose and the Pfizer vaccine was administered as a second dose after four weeks.

Vergeire said they are awaiting more evidence to support the mix-and-match approach.

Citing the country's vaccine expert panel, Vergeire added if ever this is applied in the country, it might be safest to go with vaccines that use the same platform.

There are different types of COVID-19 vaccines - from inactivated to mRNA. Inactivated vaccines like Sinovac's CoronaVac, which was the first to be rolled out in the country, use a killed form of the coronavirus. This is one of the tried-and-tested methods to prompt an antibody response. The mRNA shots like those made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna do not use an actual virus, just a genetic sequence of the virus-causing disease.