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West Michigan prepares to roll out COVID-19 vaccine boosters, ability to 'mix and match'

The CDC endorsed boosters of all three vaccines and allowed people to mix and match.

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) signed off on booster shots for those who received Moderna or Johnson and Johnson shots, with restrictions. 

The authorization included flexibility of "mixing and matching" vaccines. For example, someone who had the two-dose Pfizer vaccine may be eligible for a booster of Moderna. 

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"This recommendation would not have been made if they didn't think it was going to be effective or it was going to be to be safe," said Mary Wisinski, the immunization supervisor for the Kent County Health Department. "Your ability to get a booster dose will be enhanced because you will have the option of getting one of the other COVID-19 vaccines."

Wisinski said she was working Friday to update orders for Kent County vaccines. She is hopeful booster shots will be available at the start of next week. 

Those who had the two-dose Moderna vaccine are eligible for a booster if they are 65 or older, a nursing home resident, or at an increased risk of severe disease due to a compromised immune system. Those in health care, education and people in jail or homeless shelters are also eligible. Boosters are recommended six months after original vaccination. 

For those who received the Johnson and Johnson one-dose vaccine, a booster is recommended for everyone at least two months after vaccination. 

"We're using boosters as a way to decrease the overall transmission and decrease positivity numbers," said Dr. Andrew Jameson, the division chief of infectious disease at Mercy Health.

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Dr. Jameson said the ability to "mix and match" vaccines allows more flexibility and gives healthcare providers some guidance. While those who have breakthrough cases of COVID-19 typically have less severe symptoms, getting booster shots can reduce the spread of the virus in the community. 

"I see immunocompromised individuals all the time," said Dr. Jameson. "If I got unlucky enough to get a breakthrough case, and wasn't that sick and didn't know it, I would definitely not want to have any risks of those I'm around."

Jameson said the average age of patients at the hospital with breakthrough cases of COVID-19 is about 80 years old. Meanwhile, those who are unvaccinated and hospitalized for the virus have an average age of 56. 

"If we keep this up, people that are unvaccinated are going to have very bad holidays," said Jameson, "and they will be deeply affected."

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