What types of vaccines are these?
Three manufacturers have been given emergency authorization by the FDA to distribute vaccines: Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Pfizer and Moderna developed mRNA vaccines, whereas J&J developed what is known as an adenovirus vector vaccine. While there are notable differences among them – all vaccines offer significant protection against COVID-19. Read below to learn more about how each vaccine works.
What is an mRNA vaccine?
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines developed messenger RNA vaccines – mRNA for short. At their core, these vaccines are designed to teach your body how to produce antibodies that protect you if the real virus ever enters your system. It's important to know that the mRNA vaccines do not contain a single COVID particle, nor do they alter your DNA in any conceivable way.
What is an adenovirus vector vaccine?
Johnson & Johnson's vaccine is an adenovirus vector vaccine, which is a more traditional approach to vaccine development. Basically, the vaccine uses a harmless, genetically modified common cold virus to trigger your immune system to build antibodies. As mentioned, this approach is not new, and J&J has used similar methods for developing vaccines in the past.
What are the differences among the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines?
The most noticeable difference is that Pfizer and Moderna are mRNA vaccines, and J&J is a viral vector vaccine. The mRNA vaccines require two shots while J&J is delivered in a single dose. You can read more about each vaccine on the CDC website.
We think it's equally important to talk about how they are alike. All of these vaccines have been rigorously tested, demonstrated to be safe, and provide substantial protection from becoming seriously ill with COVID-19.
How effective are the COVID-19 vaccines?
In short, very. Based on the public data, all of the available vaccines are highly effective at preventing illness from COVID-19, most importantly severe illness that results in hospitalization or worse. Health experts recommend people take whatever vaccine is available to them for personal protection and to bring our communities closer to herd immunity.
Are the vaccines safe?
To this point, few safety events or longer-term reactions have been reported in association with the authorized vaccines. While some side effects are common - including arm pain, fatigue, muscle aches, chills, and fever - they generally clear up within a few days.
How many vaccine injections will I need?
It depends. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, whereas Johnson & Johnson is a single injection. For Pfizer, there's a 21-day gap between vaccinations. For Moderna, it's a little longer, with 28 days in between each injection.
Do I still need to wear a mask?
It will take some time to distribute a vaccine to everyone. So it’s important that you continue safety practices to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to protect yourself and your loved ones:
• Wear a mask over your mouth and nose.
• Practice social distancing.
• Wash your hands frequently.
• Avoid indoors gatherings with those outside your immediate household.