Currently, the United States has two COVID-19 vaccines: one from Pfizer and another one from Moderna. Pfizer is a pharmaceutical company and Moderna is a biotechnology company. Both vaccines demonstrated equal efficacy in the earIy stages post vaccination. What people are concerned about is how they affect human health in the long term.
In an ideal world, scientists and researchers would have years to develop, test, and distribute the vaccine. This would ultimately lead to a single shot, just like the flu shot, once it was ready. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world. In fact, these vaccines were fast-tracked to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused 1.8 million deaths worldwide. The current vaccines require two doses and all possible side effects have yet to be determined.
How Do The Vaccines Work?
For people who are ready for the vaccine, the good news is that the vaccines are proving to be highly effective. Both vaccines were developed with messenger RNA (mRNA), a new technology. The vaccine works by “…encoding a portion of the spike protein found on the surface of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This encoded protein works to ignite an immune response in the body. The body builds up antibodies to help it fight off future encounters with the virus. Once the body develops this immune response, it eliminates the protein and mRNA and keeps the antibodies.
Unlike the flu or other conventional vaccines, the new COVID-19 vaccines are not made the same way. Typically, vaccines that fight viruses are made from viruses that grow in chicken eggs or other mammalian cells. You actually don’t need a virus to develop an mRNA vaccine, but it does require a small amount of the virus for gene sequencing and testing. The body will also respond to the new vaccines differently than traditional vaccines. Traditional vaccines contain a piece of the virus, which helps your body develop antibodies to protect it from that specific virus. The new mRNA vaccines do not contain the virus, and they actually instruct cells to produce antigens. The cells that produce the antigens for the body’s immune system encourage T-cell and antibody responses to fight the disease.
The Difference Between The Two Vaccines
The Pfizer Vaccine:
The Pfizer vaccine is for people over the age of 16 and it has demonstrated a 95% efficacy at preventing COVID-19 infection, seven days after the second dose. For the most part, the vaccine seems to equally protect people of all ages, races, and ethnic backgrounds. When taken, the vaccine seems to reduce the risk of severe COVID-19 disease. This vaccine requires two doses, both of which contain 30 micrograms of the vaccine. The interval between the two doses is 21 days.
Since the initial rollout of the Pfizer vaccine, there have been many reports of allergic reactions. One severe reaction included anaphylaxis, but many people experienced fever, joint pain, injection site pain, and muscle pain; the long term effects remain unknown. The Pfizer vaccine has not been tested on lactating or pregnant women, but neither has the Moderna vaccine. Pfizer warns that people with severe allergic reactions should have a risk assessment prior to getting the vaccine.
The Moderna Vaccine:
The FDA released information about the efficacy of the Moderna vaccine. A report that monitored 30,000 people over the age of 18 found that it is 94.1% effective against COVID-19. Many doctors and infectious disease specialists agree that it’s very effective, despite the slightly lower efficacy percentage than the Pfizer vaccine. This vaccine also requires two doses, both of which contain 100 micrograms of the vaccine. The interval between the two doses is 28 days.
Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna vaccine completed animal studies in an attempt to determine the side effects for pregnant or lactating women. The studies didn’t notice any signs of the vaccine harming pregnancy or the developing fetus. To date, there are no human studies on this matter. One thing to note is that the Moderna vaccine may cause side effects in people with facial fillers. Some participants in these trials experienced lip or facial swelling from dermal fillers.
Ultimately, both of these vaccines are fairly similar and you’ll have to decide which one is right for you, or if vaccination is for you at all. The hope is for most people in the U.S. to receive the vaccine by Summer 2021. Monitor the results of the vaccine as we continue to move through this ever-evolving pandemic.