Vaccines that provide protection against the COVID-19 virus are bringing us closer to the end of this deadly pandemic. Two different COVID-19 vaccines are currently available in the U.S. today: one from Pfizer and the other from Moderna. Kate Ward, PharmD, BCPS, Director of Clinical Pharmacy at Renown Health and Adam Porath, PharmD, Vice President of Pharmacy at Renown, share what you need to know about these vaccines.
When two COVID-19 vaccines were approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in December 2020, it was cause for celebration. Why? Because according to the CDC, the vaccines are 94 percent or more effective in providing protection against the COVID-19 virus! Many people are seeking information about the new Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. Below, our pharmacy leaders provide answers to some commonly asked questions.
How do the COVID-19 Vaccines Work?
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are both mRNA vaccines that help your immune system develop antibodies against the COVID-19 virus. The vaccines use messenger RNA, or mRNA, to show our bodies’ protein-making cells how to make the spike proteins of the COVID-19 virus.
Our immune system reacts to these spike proteins by creating antibodies that can recognize and destroy them. So when a person is exposed to the virus in the future, they will be less likely to get sick.
What are the Differences between the Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines?
The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are very similar, with just a few small differences worth noting.
- The main difference between the two vaccines is when you should receive your follow-up dose. Patients who receive a first dose of Pfizer should receive their second dose about three weeks later. Those who receive a first dose of Moderna should receive their follow-up vaccination roughly four weeks after their first dose.
- People 18 years and older can receive the Moderna vaccine while people 16 years and older can receive the Pfizer vaccine.
- Dosage for the Moderna vaccine is 0.5 ml (100 mcg). Dosage for the Pfizer vaccine is 0.3 ml (30 mcg).
Is One Vaccine Better than the Other?
No, both vaccinations are highly effective (>94%) and well tolerated. There is no medical reason to prefer one COVID-19 vaccine over the other.
Can I Choose Which Vaccine I receive?
No, people cannot choose the vaccine that they receive due to the limited allocation of the vaccines.
What Should People Know about Their Second Dose?
In order to provide optimal protection, both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two doses. At your first vaccine appointment, you will receive a small card that says which vaccine you received and when you should receive your second dose. It’s important to keep this card for a couple of reasons:
- It can serve as a reminder of which vaccine you received and when you should get your second dose.
- It can help the vaccine clinic team members validate that you are here for the right vaccine within the correct time frame for your second dose.
If you lose your vaccination card, the good news is that you won’t be turned away from your second dose of COVID-19 vaccine. The information on the vaccine card is also entered into your medical record and into Nevada’s immunizations information system (WebIZ).
If you have any questions, please type them in the comments below.