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VERIFY: Can you take both COVID-19 vaccines? Why experts say to stick with just one

Health experts believe there won't be any benefit to getting both coronavirus vaccines as opposed to receiving just one.

The announcement that the Food and Drug Administration is evaluating COVID-19 vaccines by Moderna and Pfizer has led to a lot of questions online. Both companies are scheduled to have hearings about a possible emergency authorization for use from the FDA. 

One of the questions sent to the VERIFY team asked if people can or should take both vaccines for extra safety.

We reached out to experts and health authorities to VERIFY. 

To be clear, the question the VERIFY team is tackling deals with taking vaccines by different manufacturers. This VERIFY is not looking into taking multiple doses of the same vaccine. 

THE QUESTION

Is it safe to receive more than one COVID-19 vaccine? 

THE ANSWER

Dr. Sam Sun and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention both suggested sticking to one coronavirus vaccine.

It’s unlikely that taking multiple vaccines will cause any health issues, but it’s also unlikely that it will provide any benefits.

The reality is that due to supply chains and high demand, getting one vaccine will already be difficult. It may not even be possible to get more than one vaccine for quite some time.

WHAT WE FOUND

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained that after the clinical trial process for both manufactured vaccines, individuals will have to take two doses from the same brand.

The “CDC will recommend that if you get 1 dose of one product, your 2nd dose needs to be of the same product,” a representative said. 

The CDC also clarified that they don’t have enough evidence yet to know how one vaccine would react with the other. Their representative told VERIFY it’s unlikely that there would be large negative health effects, but they also don’t know if multiple products would cause any change in prevention. 

“So I'm guessing the thought process is that if both vaccines are very effective, then maybe if you take both of them, they'll be even more effective,” Dr. Sun told VERIFY. “I don't expect there to be any real synergy between the two vaccines.”

Sun is the director of the inDemic Foundation, a nonprofit group of scientists and researchers that have been analyzing COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. He said that the current vaccinations are very similar in how they function.

“You could think of it as just taking the same vaccine at twice the dose recommended. So you could expect more side effects, but the same efficacy,” he said. 

There is a chance that a combination of different, future vaccinations could be beneficial, but Sun said right now that’s all speculation. The current reality is that most people won’t even be able to take two different vaccines even if they wanted to. 

“There's not even going to be enough of either vaccine, let alone both vaccines for much of the population. It will take quite a bit of time for both companies to ramp up production, manufacturing and delivery,” Sun explained.

When it comes to being “extra safe” the best way, according to Sun and the CDC, is to stick with one vaccine, unless you want to risk unpleasant side effects.

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