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Do my vaccines match? Emory researchers test 'mix and match' approach to booster shots

As new variants emerge, researchers look to booster shots to strengthen and lengthen immune response.

DECATUR, Ga. — Emory researchers are examining "mix and match" booster shots for COVID-19 vaccines, they announced Tuesday.

University officials said they are involved in a clinical study assessing the potential for "mix and match" booster shots to strengthen vaccine immunity. They added that booster shots could broaden immune response to emerging variants of the virus. 

Mixing and matching vaccines is not a new concept as researchers think combining different types of vaccines could result in a longer lasting and stronger immune response, according to a press release.

"This study will help us to understand if booster shots would be a practical strategy to protect against COVID-19," said Christina Rostad, assistant professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, in a statement.

They said the study consists of two groups, none of which will have placebos. The first group focuses on vaccinated individuals, while the other consists of unvaccinated people who have not contracted the virus. 

Officals said the study will assess two age groups: those 18 to 55 years old and over 56 years old. Participants will be asked to go to the Hope Clinic of Emory Vaccine Center or Emory Children's Center for vaccinations and follow-up visits. 

"Because of the successful COVID-19 vaccination programs in the United States, it is becoming difficult to recruit people who haven't been vaccinated," associate professor at the university's school of medicine and principal investigator at the Hope Clinic site Srilatha Edupuganti said. 

The first group will receive a delayed booster shot, meaning 12-20 weeks after completing their second dose of any emergency authorized COVID-19 vaccine, they said. For the second group, unvaccinated participants receive the Moderna vaccine, followed by a booster shot.  

The Mix and Match study, as it's called, is being conducted through the Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Consortium and is led by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

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