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Comparing the COVID-19 Vaccines

by Daniela George


The pandemic has been a harrowing time for us all, with many businesses closing and social distancing measures requiring us to reside in isolation for the safety of the public. But some good news is that several vaccines have been developed, one step on our road to recovery. The three main vaccines are Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson&Johnson. Today we will be going over the details and origins of each vaccine, and help you decide which one is best for you.


The first vaccine to receive FDA approval, the Pfizer vaccine has the highest effectiveness, at around 95%. The method used to create this vaccine is through messenger RNA. A small piece of the SARS CoV-2 Virus genetic code is introduced to host cells in the body, allowing the body to undergo an immune response, producing antibodies, and developing memory cells in case the body is infected with the actual virus. One downside of this vaccine is the strict storage measures needed, which is in ultra-cold temperature controlled units at -94 degrees Fahrenheit. The dosage for this vaccine is two doses, 21 days apart. The minimum age to take this vaccine is 16 years old, but Pfizer is planning on submitting data for approval for younger ages to start taking the vaccine. Some common side effects of this vaccine are chills, body aches, drowsiness, and swelling at the injection site, all of which resolves within a couple of days.


The Moderna vaccine was the second one to be authorized for use in the U.S, and it uses the same mRNA technology as the Pfizer vaccine. It has a similar efficacy at 94.1% and it also uses two doses, but the doses are 28 days apart. Two differences between the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are that the Moderna vaccine can be stored in standard freezer units, and can be stored for up to 30 days in normal refrigerators, making distribution and storage easier. The minimum age for this vaccine is 18 years old, but Moderna is testing the vaccine on children aged 6 months to 12 years, and 12 years to 17 years. This vaccine has similar side effects to the Pfizer vaccine, with headaches, pain, tiredness, and injection site swelling, all of which resolve within 1-2 days.

Johnson & Johnson:

The third vaccine to be given FDA approval, with a 76% efficacy, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine uses a different approach than its two predecessors. It is a “carrier” or a “virus vector” vaccine, which uses a modified version of a different virus to deliver instructions to our cells and immune system. The recommended age for this vaccine is 18, and unlike the other two vaccines, J&J is only a single dose. The side effects of this vaccine are very similar to the other two, with headaches, body aches, and injection site swelling being common occurrences. Recently, the CDC and FDA issued a joint recommendation for a pause in J&J distribution and administration as they investigated the cause of six severe clotting cases in women who took the J&J vaccine. But on April 23rd, the FDA and CDC lifted its recommended pause, and said they would add a label warning of clotting on the vaccines.


Overall, the choice is up to you. Each vaccine is effective in its job of combating COVID-19, although it will be some time before we know their true effectiveness, as the vaccines and the virus are all still being studied and researched. If you have an underlying condition, such as pregnancy or underlying health conditions, it is still safe and recommended to take the vaccine, although research should be done into how your particular situation affects whether you should take it or not. In unprecedented times such as these it is important to stay informed and to do your research, follow the guidelines, and keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Stay safe and wear a mask!

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