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Healthcare professionals decry media outlets, saying many took WHO comments on vaccine mixing out of context


Healthcare professionals in Canada and around the world are expressing their frustration with wording used in media reporting around mixing vaccination regimes.

On Monday, comments from Dr. Soumya Swaminathan of the World Health Organization were reported in a brief news item from Reuters, with the headline ‘WHO warns against mixing and matching COVID vaccine.’

However, it appears her comments were taken out of context.

"It's a little bit of a dangerous trend here," Reuters quoted Dr. Swaminathan as saying. "It will be a chaotic situation in countries if citizens start deciding when and who will be taking a second, a third and a fourth dose."  

It didn’t take long for other media outlets to pick the story up, using similar wording.

Equally quickly, healthcare experts took to social media to decry the story, explaining the actual context of Dr. Swaminathan’s comments and that the WHO does not recommend against following public health policy of allowing the mixing of certain vaccines, as many jurisdictions allow.

Rather, in the context of the question she was asked—whether a third booster shot against COVID-19 might prove necessary, in light of Pfizer’s efforts in creating one—Dr. Swaminathan was asserting that there is no current evidence that a booster is needed. Additionally, she asserted that individuals shouldn’t perform so-called vaccine shopping on their own to the extent of seeking combinations of vaccine outside the guidance of their public health authorities.

Dr. Swaminathan also stressed, in the context of a third booster vaccine, that many less wealthy countries have yet to see significant portions of their population vaccinated with one dose, much less with two or even three, and that vaccine equity is of critical importance.

Indeed, Dr. Swaminathan took to Twitter herself to clarify her comments.

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