Angela Merkel receives Moderna dose after first AstraZeneca shot

Several countries have allowed switching COVID vaccines for second doses and several medical studies are under way.

The 66-year-old took her first dose of AstraZeneca's vaccine in April [File: Annegret Hilse/AFP]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel received a Moderna coronavirus vaccine as her second jab, after getting the first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine, a government spokesman said on Tuesday.

The 66-year-old took her first dose of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in April, more than two weeks after German authorities recommended the use of the jab only for people aged 60 and above.

Millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been safely administered in Europe, but concerns linger over a rare type of blood clot seen in an extremely small number of recipients, meaning that some people in early priority groups due to their age or pre-existing health conditions have been holding off on getting it, preferring to wait for another vaccine.

Dozens of countries paused the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in March or restricted them to older adults. However, several of them – including Germany – have since resumed use either fully or with restrictions after health regulators said the benefits of the shot outweigh any risks.

Germany recommended in April that people who received a first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine should receive a different shot for their second dose. Several other European countries made similar decisions.

After a stuttering start, Germany’s vaccination rollout has sharply accelerated in recent weeks. As of Tuesday, one in two, or 51.2 percent of the population have received their first dose.

Mixing vaccines

Some experts believe that switching COVID vaccines for second doses could boost immunity and several medical studies are under way.

One small UK study into using different COVID vaccines in two-dose inoculations found that people who received Pfizer’s vaccine followed by a dose of AstraZeneca, or vice versa, were more likely to report mild or moderate common post-vaccination symptoms than if they received two doses of the same type.

Novavax, which is developing a coronavirus vaccine, said on May 21 it would take part in a mix-and-match COVID-19 vaccine trial to test the use of an additional vaccine dose from a different producer as a booster. The trial will start in June in the UK.

Meanwhile, Canada, which is facing supply shortages, has recommended that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can be used interchangeably.

The government said on Monday that Pfizer’s weekly shipment of 2.4 million doses was delayed, leaving provinces switching Pfizer appointments for Moderna, and urging people not to cancel their jabs, Canada’s National Observer reported.

Officials in Ontario have informed residents that they may receive different mRNA vaccines – the advanced technology used in shots from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

“We want you getting the full protection as soon as possible,” David Williams, a doctor, was quoted by the National Observer as saying.

“The vaccines are safe to mix,” he said.

Officials in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec have urged citizens and residents to do the same.

“Our public health is saying you can have the same one, or a mix, the advantages are a lot higher than the very small risk,” Quebec Premier Francois Legault said on Monday.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies