Should you mix COVID-19 vaccines?: 'Please don't be misled by bungled communication,' doctors say about uproar over WHO statement

·3-min read

One statement from the World Health Organization's chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, about mixing vaccines sent Canadians in a frenzy on social media.

"It's a little bit of a dangerous trend here," Dr. Swaminathan said on Monday, specifically after a question about booster shots and referencing individuals deciding for themselves whether they need that third dose. "It will be a chaotic situation in countries if citizens start deciding when and who will be taking a second, a third and a fourth dose."

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There was no specific reference to Canada and individuals who have mixed the Pfizer and Modern COVID-19 vaccines. Dr. Swaminathan went on to tweet that "individuals should not decide for themselves, public health agencies can, based on available data."

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Health experts were quick to comment on the original reporting of the statement, taken out of context, reiterating that it is safe for Canadians to receive mixed doses of vaccines, including mixed mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) or a mix of viral vector vaccine (AstraZeneca) and an mRNA vaccine.

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This confusion is an example of why public communication around vaccinations and COVID-19 is critically important.

We continue to advise Ontarians that mixing of the mRNA vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, as well as mixing AstraZeneca and an mRNA vaccine, is safe, it's effective and it enables people to get their second dose sooner.Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health

"We are following the advice of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, which recommends it is safe to mix these vaccines, based on studies from the U.K., from Spain, from Germany, and they have found that mixing these vaccines is very safe and produces a strong, effective immune response. Of course we will continue to monitor the data and work with the National Advisory Committee as well as the federal government on this."

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