Doctors hear this often, “Which COVID-19 vaccine is best?” The truth is there really is not a vaccine that is better or worse than the others, but there are some minor differences.
Even so, most will not have a choice between different vaccines because most locations only have one type available.
“There are some differences between the types of COVID-19 vaccines currently available,” said Meranda Eggebrecht, nurse and clinical quality nurse specialist with Marshfield Clinic Health System. “However, we would recommend any of these vaccines to anyone that walked through our doors.”
Below is a recap of the differences and similarities of the vaccines and a resource to help you compare them.
Protection against hospitalization and death
Research has shown each COVID-19 vaccine provides 100% protection from hospitalization or death. This is the most important measure for a vaccine.
“The vaccines were developed to reduce the number of people that died from the virus,” Eggebrecht said. “It is exciting to see that all three vaccines do this at a high level.”
You may have seen that the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine has a 66% efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19, while Pfizer-BioNTech has a 95% efficacy and Moderna a 94% efficacy. While this may seem like a big deal, you should not compare these results to one another. Researchers conducted the clinical trials for each vaccine:
- During different time periods;
- With different groups of people; and
- With variant COVID-19 viruses present for only some trials.
Independent experts on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices believe the level of protection the vaccines provide does not represent an important difference between the vaccines.
COVID-19 vaccine differences on doses
The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine is given as a single dose, while both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are given in two doses.
You should receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine four weeks (28 days) apart and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine three weeks (21 days) apart.
All COVID-19 vaccines are safe
Over 300 million vaccine doses have been safely administered in the US with only rare vaccine-related health effects. The benefits of vaccination greatly outweigh the risks.
Common side effects from the vaccines include pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, chills and muscle aches. These side effects are mild to moderate in most people and typically resolve after 1-2 days. These side effects occur because the immune system is responding normally to the vaccine.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) added a warning about rare cases of myocarditis (heart inflammation) in adolescents and young adults after receiving an mRNA vaccine by Pfizer or Moderna. The rate of diagnosed myocarditis/pericarditis after the second dose of mRNA vaccine is about 13 cases per million doses for people 12 to 39 years old. This is higher than expected by chance, but the absolute risk is very low.
- CDC and FDA are monitoring reports of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) in people who have received the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 Vaccine. GBS is a rare disorder where the body’s immune system damages nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. Most people fully recover from GBS, but some have permanent nerve damage.
Independent experts recommend each vaccine
Independent experts on the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices reviewed and recommended each vaccine. The independent experts did this in an open and thorough way so everyone could review the same information. If you would like to review that same information, go here.
These experts, along with thousands of other doctors, epidemiologists and other experts from around the world, believe you should take any COVID-19 vaccine that is available when it is your turn to be vaccinated.
To see if you are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Wisconsin, go to marshfieldclinic.org/CovidVaccine.