MARCH 1, 2021- The right vaccine is whichever vaccine you have access to first!
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines. Both use the same process and although some minor ingredients are slightly different between the two, they do the same thing in your body. They are both safe and effective. Both are approximately 95% effective at preventing symptomatic illness and about 100% effective at preventing severe disease that would lead to hospitalization.
The Johnson and Johnson vaccine uses an adenovirus as the base to hold a single protein from SARS-CoV2 on its surface. Adenoviruses are common in humans and the one that is used as the base cannot replicate once it’s inside your body or make you sick. It just serves as a platform to hold the SARS-CoV2 S protein. Your immune system will see the protein and build defenses against it. This way, if you are ever infected with the real thing, your body will destroy the virus before you get sick. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine has been shown to be 72% effective in the US at preventing symptomatic illness, 85% effective at preventing severe disease, and 100% effective at preventing hospitalization and death. Only one dose is needed for this vaccine, which means that more doses will be available to more people, and it is a solution for those who may have barriers to accessing vaccination sites. There have also not been any reports of severe side effects or allergic reactions in recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Vaccination protects you and those around you. Delaying vaccination delays that protection and extends the duration of the pandemic. No vaccine offers perfect immunity from symptomatic illness, but Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines do prevent severe disease that leads to hospitalization and death, so on the very low chance you were to get sick after vaccination, you would still be protected from the worst consequences of COVID-19. The longer COVID-19 circulates, the risk of new variants arising increases. By being vaccinated, you are protecting yourself and your loved ones, as well as participating in the solution for the whole world.
What about allergic reactions and side effects?
While minor reactions to vaccination are relatively common (such as tenderness at the injection site and short-term, low-grade fever), severe allergic reactions are quite rare at approximately 11 out of 1,000,000 for the COVID mRNA vaccines. No severe allergic reactions have been reported for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines contain polyethylene glycol (PEG), which keeps the vaccine stable. Many FDA-approved products contain PEG, such as medicines (i.e., Miralax, herceptin), hand creams, and foods (salad dressings, cake mix, popcorn). People known to be allergic to PEG or polysorbate (a different molecule that is similar to PEG) should speak with their allergist before receiving the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.
Both mRNA and the Johnson and Johnson vaccines show efficacy against the variants of concern. The best way to fight these and future variants is to have an immune population, so current variants can’t spread and new variants can’t occur.