Masks again Tartine
At Tartine Bakery on Tuesday. Photo by Lydia Chávez August 3, 2021

The San Francisco Department of Health,  Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and other doctors are accommodating residents who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine by allowing them to receive a supplemental shot of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines. 

The move — one that’s not in alignment with current guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control — is seen as a precaution against the Delta variant. 

ZSFGH will start providing a single dose of the Moderna or Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines later this week to those who received the J&J vaccine and ask for a supplemental shot, said Cristina Padilla, a spokesperson for the hospital. 

Although Padilla said the health department is still aligned with CDC guidance and does not recommend a booster shot, it is accommodating requests.  

The J&J vaccine is about 66 percent effective against Covid-19 infection, while mRNA vaccines like Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna are about 95 percent effective. In cases where vaccinated individuals contract Covid-19, both types of vaccines have proven highly effective at preventing serious illness and death, according to the CDC. 

The vast majority of San Francisco residents received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

“Potential benefit, no downside. To me, as we look at the future of this virus and now we’re facing a fourth surge, it does make sense,” Dr. Chris Colwell, chief of emergency medicine at SFGH, told ABC7.  

The “SFDPH, including Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, is currently accommodating special requests from individuals,” who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” Padilla wrote in an email.

In many cases, those requesting another shot “have consulted with their doctor and wish to receive a supplemental dose with an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna). This move does not represent a change in policy for SFDPH,” she wrote.

Dr. Maria Lopez, a pharmacist at Mission Wellness, told Mission Local on Tuesday that she received permission in July from the DPH to “oblige” patients who got an adenovirus vector vaccine (J&J or AstraZeneca) with a dose of an mRNA vaccine, if they requested it. 

Lopez was told that patients must have received the first shot at least four weeks prior to receiving the supplemental dose. 

“We’re not getting a ton, but we are getting requests,” Lopez said, adding that requests for a supplemental dose have been growing. She stressed that people should confer with their doctors before getting the extra dose, as the practice is not officially approved by the FDA or the CDC.

In the letter Lopez received on July 23, the DPH cited the potential lower efficacy of the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines against the Delta variant, and “the excellent safety record of the mRNA vaccines, and the positive experience of the Public Health Authority of Canada with giving a single dose of mRNA vaccine to replace the 2nd dose in the A-Z vaccine series” as reasons for allowing the supplemental dose in certain cases. 

That said, the letter also indicated that there is currently insufficient evidence that outcomes will improve for patients who get a supplemental dose. 

Before receiving the go-ahead, Lopez was reaching out to patients’ healthcare providers and the DPH for each individual request, to get approval to administer the additional dose. 

While Lopez acknowledged that some research suggests “adenovirus vaccines are not as robust or not as protective against the variant” as the mRNA vaccines, she stressed that each patient be considered on a case-by-case basis, with the involvement of primary care physicians, pharmacists, or other healthcare providers.

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REPORTER. Eleni is our reporter focused on policing in San Francisco. She first moved to the city on a whim nearly 10 years ago, and the Mission has become her home. Follow her on Twitter @miss_elenius.

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  1. I got the J&J in Oregon because I was told to take what was offered. I was very disappointed upon receiving it knowing that the efficacy was lower.. Where can I get a supplemental mRNA vaccine in Oregon? I live in Portland .

  2. I had the J&J only because that was what was available, so far unable to get a booster. Very disappointing.

  3. I’m not against this, it’s probably a good idea, but after all the FDA and the City has insisted on “following the science” and getting test results for everything, this booster of a difference vax seems a wild departure

    And fwiw, there have been studies of two doses of J&J and I think that’s known to be safe and quite helpful