Which COVID-19 vaccine is best depends on what you can get first

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C.(WNCN)- While most of us wait our turn for a COVID-19 vaccine, some people could start feeling a little vaccine envy.

Envious of not just getting an appointment but of which vaccine you get. This is especially true as most vaccines move down the approval pipeline, some touting benefits.

Many people deciding to get a COVID-19 vaccine are looking forward to a new day.

“So they can turn to life as quickly as possible. And what everyone is really promoting is to hang in there a little bit longer,” said Duke Health infectious disease expert, Dr. Becky Smith.

Smith said not to wait too long if you can help it. You should take the vaccine you can get into your arm first.

“The vaccine that’s being offered to you, it’s the one that can protect you right away,” Smith said.

At this point- you don’t necessarily have a choice between the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Vaccine providers only have what the state gives them and can’t arrange customized vaccine appointments. A choice wouldn’t make much of a difference.

“It looks like they’re very protective against a severe disease that can lead to hospitalization and very protective against dying from COVID,” said Smith.

Both vaccines have the same side effects like fatigue, headache, muscle pain. Trial studies showed slightly fewer people felt these for the Pfizer vaccine.

The sliver of difference in side effects and efficacy shouldn’t be used to make a decision on waiting in one line or the other.

“The flu vaccine is about 40 to 50-percent effective every year and obviously we very much promote the flu vaccine,” said Smith.

More vaccines could be on the way

Johnson and Johnson may apply for emergency authorization this week for its 72-percent effective vaccine. That vaccine is a single dose and could be stored under normal refrigeration conditions.

In the UK, AstraZeneca said their vaccine may prevent transmission of the virus- something no other manufacturer has largely tested. It could eventually be approved here in the U.S.

“If you were offered a vaccine, you should get the one offered to you as soon as you can get it. They’re all very effective,” Smith said.

A difference in technology

The biggest difference between the current vaccines and the potentially incoming Johnson and Johnson vaccine is the technology they used.

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use mRNA technology. The ‘M’ stands for messenger. Unlike some vaccines that carry a weakened version of a virus, mRNA does not.

mRNA vaccines can be developed quicker. According to the CDC, “They teach our cells how to make a protein — or even just a piece of a protein — that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.” This kind of vaccine essentially provides your body with a set of instructions on how to fight a virus.

The Johnson and Johnson vaccine uses a viral vector technology. This kind of vaccine has been used to fight Ebola as well.

The CDC said using this technology, the vector (a different and harmless virus) will enter a cell in the body. It then prompts the cells to produce a harmless piece of the virus( a spike protein) that causes COVID-19 on the cell’s surface. The immune system recognizes it doesn’t belong there and starts fighting what it thinks is an infection. It eventually teaches the body how to fight future COVID-19 infection.

While vaccines have different ways of prompting your body to protect you, anything approved by the FDA has undergone rigorous studies to prove it’s safe.

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