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With new Moderna booster in short supply, get whatever shot's available, doctors say

COVID-19 vaccination card
Simone Hogan
Doctors say there's not much difference between the updated Pfizer and Moderna boosters and recommend getting whichever one is available.

Northeast Ohio's supply of the updated Moderna booster shot that protects against the new omicron variants has run out in some areas and is low in others after a reported inspection issue at a vaccine manufacturing plant in Indiana reported earlier this month.

Summit County has run out of its supply of the updated Moderna booster shots, Health Commissioner Donna Skoda said. While their vaccine clinics have been consistently full compared to previous clinics, Skoda said she's noticed some are not scheduling their vaccine after hearing the county is out of the new Moderna booster.

I tell people, if you're there ... take it, don't wait," Skoda said. "There has been a little bit of hesitancy where people have been waiting to get it."

In the city of Cleveland, the supply of Moderna shots is low, but health officials still have them, said Dr. David Margolius, the city's director of public health. Cuyahoga County Board of Health said that while their supply of the new Moderna booster is limited, they also have some on hand.

There is no shortage of Pfizer boosters, which are currently widely available, health officials said. The Cleveland Clinic provides only the Pfizer booster, a spokesperson said. University Hospitals (UH) too said that it has focused more on the Pfizer vaccine because it is available to a wider range of ages.

"We do not have many practices giving Moderna, but we have not heard of any significant delays for Moderna (or Pfizer)," a UH spokesperson wrote.

Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reportedly held back more than 10 million doses of the updated Moderna vaccine pending the results of an inspection at a plant in Bloomington, Ind. operated by a company helping to bottle and package Moderna's vaccine, the Washington Post reported.

FDA inspectors reportedly concluded there were no problems with Moderna's vaccine and subsequently moved forward to release the doses that had been held back, according to The Post's report.

For those making decisions about which shot to get, doctors say that it doesn't matter whether you get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

"They're the exact same thing," said Dr. Amy Edwards, an infectious disease specialist and head of University Hospitals’ Pediatric COVID Recovery Clinic. "The data hasn't really supported one being significantly better than the other as far as longevity of protection... I would happily get either booster."

It is important to get the new booster and the protection it provides against the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron variants that are currently circulating, Edwards said.

The only time brand matters is for people under 18 and those who got the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) primary vaccine series.

The Pfizer version is the only booster available for those under 18, according to the FDA. People who got the J&J primary vaccine cannot get a Pfizer or Moderna booster because the shots use completely different technology to help the body build immunity, Edwards said.

"You can't mix and match with J&J," Edwards said. It is like the DC and Marvel comic universes, she explained.

"Batman and Thor never come together."

Stephanie is the digital producer/editor of Ideastream Public Media’s health team.