Learn the differences between the COVID-19 vaccines and which may be right for you.

As the nationwide rollout of COVID-19 vaccines continues, many are wondering which, if any, vaccine is the best. While efficacy rates may differ between the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, each dose is highly effective and has been tested and proven to be safe and successful at preventing severe COVID-19 infections.

Vaccine distribution may look different from place to place but it will become more consistent and accessible. At this time in Pa., doses are limited to essential workers and those most at-risk. This is due to the limited supply of doses available and will change as vaccine production continues to ramp up. 

If you have the chance to get a COVID-19 vaccine before it is offered to the general public, you should take the opportunity no matter which vaccine you’ll receive. This is because the vaccines work, and all of the available vaccines will protect you against COVID-19. The sooner you can get the COVID-19 vaccine, the better. 

What Are the Differences Between Each Vaccine?

Though there are some differences between the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, these differences don’t have to do with which one is best but instead, which one is best for a particular person or situation.

One major difference between each vaccine is which can be given to16- to18-year-olds. Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is the only dose approved for this age group. Anyone in this group who gets vaccinated will receive the Pfizer vaccine. Testing continues on the other COVID-19 vaccines to determine if they might also be safe for youth.

Unlike the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses given three to four weeks apart. This is another key difference between the three available COVID-19 vaccines, as the Johnson & Johnson version only requires one dose.

The storage methods of each vaccine are different, too. However, keep in mind: The storage methods do not change the efficacy of the vaccines. 

The Pfizer vaccine must be stored in an ultra-cold freezer, which some places may not have.  It can be transported and stored in the more common pharmacy freezers for up to two weeks after leaving the super-cold freezer and can be in a refrigerator for up to 5 days. Once a vial is opened, it’s good for only 6 hours. After that, it has to be thrown away.

The Moderna vaccine needs to be frozen at a specific temperature, can be stored in a refrigerator for up to 30 days after being thawed and can be held at slightly warmer temperatures for up to 12 hours. Like the Pfizer vaccine, once the first dose has been drawn the vial has to be thrown away after 6 hours. 

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be stored in a refrigerator for several months.

The best COVID-19 vaccine is the one you can get. Handling, storage, number of doses and efficacy rates may vary between which vaccine you get, but in the end getting a vaccine will help keep you protected against the COVID-19 virus no matter what, and help society achieve herd immunity as soon as possible.