NEWS
March 19, 2021

Johnson & Johnson vs. Pfizer vs. Moderna Vaccines

Johnson & Johnson vs. Pfizer vs. Moderna Vaccines
Kathleen Gaines
By: Kathleen Gaines MSN, RN, BA, CBC

Janssen Pharmaceuticals Companies of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine was given Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on February 27, 2021. Immediately following the announcement, more than 20 million doses were set to be delivered by end of March with over 100 million doses guaranteed in the first half of 2021. Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, Johnson & Johnson is a single-shot vaccine. 

While it was 67% effective in the clinical trial, it was also found that the vaccine was approximately 77% effective in preventing severe/critical COVID-19 occurring at least 14 days after vaccination and 85% effective in preventing severe/critical COVID-19 occurring at least 28 days after vaccination. The overall effectiveness of the vaccine increased over a period of time. It is recommended that full effectiveness is after 28 days.

Currently, there are THREE viable vaccines available to individuals throughout the United States. Unfortunately, people do not currently have the option to pick which vaccine they would like to receive. 

COVID Vaccine Comparison 

Here is a quick and easy comparison chart about the three different vaccines. Read below for additional information.

How do COVID-19 vaccines work?

Pfizer and Moderna, while first to market - utilize messenger RNA (mRNA) to deliver the COVID vaccine. mRNA vaccines work by encoding a portion of the spike protein from on the surface of SARS-CoV-2. This is the virus that causes COVID-19.

Johnson & Johnson - utilizes a different technology to deliver the COVID-19 to individuals. Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a “shell of a virus”, in this case, adenovirus, to carry genetic material into the cells. The adenovirus, a type of virus that causes the common cold, is inactivated and carries the genetic material into the human cells. The human cells then produce coronavirus proteins to mimic the virus and this helps your immune system fight off potential infection at a later time. 

Similar to the other vaccines, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine does not prevent you from developing COVID-19. It merely helps protect you from developing a severe case of it. It is still possible to become infected despite being properly vaccinated. 

Side effects of Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

Possible side effects, which usually go away within 24-48 hours after receiving the vaccine, include:

  • Chills and/or fever
  • Fatigue and/or feeling unwell
  • Headache
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Pain, swelling, and/or redness at the injection site
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Allergic Reaction

There is a risk for severe allergic reaction to the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine. These were reported within a few minutes after receiving a dose of the vaccine. For that reason, it is suggested and required in some locations to remain at the vaccination facility for a specific amount of time following vaccine administration. Signs of a severe allergic reason can include:

  • A bad rash all over your body
  • Angioedema (swelling of your face and throat)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness and weakness.
  • Tachycardia (A fast heartbeat)
  • Why the side-effects? 

It’s important to note that the aforementioned side effects are a sign of your immune system working and not a sign that the vaccine is unsafe and/or developing an infection of COVID-19. However, it is important to note that the FDA does not currently advise individuals with life-threatening allergies to foods and/or medications to receive the vaccination at this time. 

Johnson & Johnson Vaccine and COVID-19 Variants

Recent news has continued to discuss the need for ongoing vigilance because of the significance of the emerging COVID-19 variants. While Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have not been fully studied against the variants, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine clinical trials were conducted in South Africa and Brazil when the new variants had become prevalent. In South Africa, approximately 95 percent of the circulating virus was the B.1.351 variant and in Brazil, roughly 69 percent of the circulating virus was a P1/P2 variant at the time of the trial. 

While the overall efficacy of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is significantly lower, it is known to protect against the variants that are now being seen in the United States. Individuals who receive or already received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine may have to receive a booster shot to protect themselves against the new variants. Current development is underway for those booster vaccines. 

How to Choose Which Vaccine Is Right For You?

All three current vaccines are effective against preventing severe COVID-19 illness. According to healthcare officials and medical experts, it truly doesn’t matter which vaccine you get - simply that you get vaccinated. Unfortunately, there is not enough of any one vaccine for people to choose which one they want. Hopefully, someday that will be the case. Individual states submit vaccine requests to the U.S. government who then distribute the vaccine based on supply and equal distribution. The vaccine is then distributed amongst the counties and healthcare systems. 

At this point, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Dr. Anand Parekh chief medical advisor for the Bipartisan Policy Center, states do not have the ability to request specific vaccines beyond needing second doses for those that have already received their first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. 

Individuals that are 16 and 17 years old are only able to receive the Pfizer vaccine because of their age. For this reason, they are allowed to request a specific vaccine when applying for vaccination. But otherwise, there is no way to ask for a specific vaccine. 

Despite the introduction of a third COVID-19 vaccine, the fight against the novel coronavirus is far from over. Recent data from the CDC reports that 118 million doses of the vaccine have been administered, fully vaccinating only 10% of Americans against the disease. It’s still recommended to wear a mask, social distance, and stay at least 6 feet apart. 

 

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