Each week, OMRF President Dr. Stephen Prescott opens “Adam’s Journal” to answer a medical question from OMRF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Adam Cohen.
At this time of year, Penny Voss, the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation’s vice president of development is on the phone. A lot.
Every day, she makes calls to thank donors who make year-end gifts to OMRF. (Thank you, everyone who supports our research!)
In the course of those conversations, Penny reports that she’s been getting the same question from many people: Of the vaccines for Covid-19, which one is best?
Dr. Prescott Prescribes
The short answer is: They’re all good. Take whichever one you get the first chance to receive.
Now here’s the long answer.
At this time, two Covid-19 vaccines have received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. The vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech that was okayed earlier this month, and the one from Moderna that received the green light from the FDA Friday.
Both of these vaccines rely on a novel technology known as messenger RNA (or mRNA). In large-scale clinical trials, they both showed approximately 95% effectiveness. That’s significantly better than seasonal flu vaccines and much higher than just about any experts had predicted.
In the trials, neither reported serious adverse events, though injections brought standard vaccine side effects, similar to those that come with the Shingrix vaccine for shingles: sore arms, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, joint pain and chills. Since the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has rolled out to the public, there have also been a handful of severe allergic reactions, though all have recovered or are recovering.
A third vaccine from AstraZeneca is in the final stage of clinical trials, and I expect it to come before the FDA in early 2021 for approval. It uses a different, more tried-and-true vaccine approach.
Preliminary results indicate that its effectiveness seems to be in the 70 to 90% range, but I wouldn’t attach too much significance to the precise figures, as I’m sure those will be refined as the company administers the vaccine to more people and adjusts for different dosing regimens. Like the mRNA vaccines, it hasn’t shown serious adverse reactions. (Trials were temporarily halted to study a case of spinal cord swelling, but it was determined to be unrelated to the vaccine.)
Based on supply agreements AstraZeneca made with our government, if this vaccine receives FDA authorization, it likely will be the most prevalent in the U.S., at least until the latter part of 2021.
All of these vaccines have shown effectiveness at preventing Covid-19, both mild and serious cases, with minimal side effects. They also appear to work across all age groups.
So when you have the chance to get any of them, take it. Getting vaccinated as quickly as possible is much more important than which particular vaccine you receive.
Do you have a health query for Dr. Prescott? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your question may be answered in a future column!