Reader question: I will soon be eligible to get a third dose of a Covid vaccine. Will I get the same vaccine as I was given for my first two doses (Pfizer), or will it be different?
France’s health service quality regulator Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) recommends both the use of only the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine (now known as Comirnaty) and the Moderna vaccine (now known as Spikevax) for booster jabs.
For a short period in October and early November, only Pfizer was being administered as a booster jab, but on November 8, HAS recommended the use of Moderna too.
The HAS report came one day before President Emmanuel Macron’s televised speech in which he announced that booster shots would become compulsory for over 65s wishing to use vaccine certificates as part of their health passes from December 15.
He also announced that a wider booster dose campaign that targets those aged 50 to 64 would be launched at the beginning of December.
France is currently offering booster doses to over 65s, those with underlying health issues that put them at risk of serious forms of Covid, healthcare workers and those who received just one dose of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Which vaccine will I get?
Regardless of what vaccine you were given for your first or second doses, you will either get Moderna or Pfizer for your booster dose.
However, the Moderna vaccine is not being given to under 30s, following the HAS’ report on November 8, because it carries a slight risk of heart inflammation in the form of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) or pericarditis (inflammation of the outer lining of the heart). These cause damage to the heart and may lead to serious health problems.
“In the population under 30 years of age, this risk of these problems appears to be approximately five times lower for Pfizer's Comirnaty vaccine compared to Moderna's Spikevax vaccine,” the HAS wrote.
It said that results from a study from EPI-PHARE, an independent research group that carries out data-driven epidemiological studies, show that for the Moderna vaccine, there were 131.6 cases of heart inflammation per one million samples in under 30s, compared to 26.7 cases for the Pfizer vaccine in the same age group.
Cases of heart inflammation “occurred mainly within seven days of vaccination, more often after the second dose, and more often in men under the age of 30,” the HAS said.
The HAS states that both Moderna and Pfizer are “safe and effective” vaccines, with Moderna proving to be slightly more effective, but also posing slightly more of a risk of cardiac inflammation than Pfizer, particularly for people under 30.
The authority is therefore recommending Moderna not be used for under 30s, whether as a first dose or a booster dose.
As most of the people currently receiving booster doses in France are over 30, they will either be given Moderna or Pfizer, depending on what is available.
Booster dose for the general public
The HAS does not at this stage recommend rolling out booster doses to everyone, but did not rule it out as a future possibility in its November 8 report.
“In the current health context, given the still limited data on the consequences of a decline in efficacy over time in young adults and on the effect of a booster on transmission, there is no reason for the time being to modify our recommendations on the relevance of a booster in the general population, even if it is likely to be necessary at a later date,” it wrote.
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