What Are The Differences Between The 3 Covid Vaccines?

George J. Ziogas

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Currently, the United States Food and Drug Administration has given Emergency Use Authorization to three Covid vaccines. The three vaccines are manufactured by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson.

Emergency Use Authorization is granted when a vaccine has shown safety and effectiveness in large clinical trials and the need for a vaccine is urgent. Scientists continue to study these vaccines as they are being used.

While all three vaccines have shown to be safe and effective, there are differences in how they are made, administered, and stored.

mRNA and Viral Vector Technologies

The Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines are mRNA vaccines. Research on mRNA vaccines was first published in the journal Science in 1990. In that study, researchers used mice to demonstrate that they could create a framework, or mRNA, to affect the immune system.

Viruses have specific spike proteins on their surface. By injecting instructions to create part of that protein into a vaccine, your body’s cells recognize the protein as foreign and build immunity to the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), mRNA technology is a framework that scientists can program with the protein from a virus to create immunity.

The Johnson and Johnson Covid vaccine uses viral vector technology. This method uses a modified version of a harmless virus, known as a vector, to instruct the body’s cell to build immunity to a harmful virus. Unlike vaccines in the past, none of the Covid vaccines sue the Covid itself to create immunity.

Administration

All three Covid vaccines are administered as an injection into the upper arm. However, they vary in the number of doses needed and what age a person must be to receive the vaccine. The Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines require two doses. The Johnson and Johnson Covid vaccine only requires one dose.

All three vaccines can be given to people age 18 and older, but the Pfizer vaccine is the only one that can be given to people ages 16 to 18. There is no Covid vaccine available for children under 16 years of age, although clinical trials are being conducted.

Storage

None of the Covid vaccines contain preservatives, making their storage requirements different from many previous vaccines for other diseases. Each Covid vaccine has different storage requirements based on the technology and manufacturing process used to create it.

· Pfizer

Vials are shipped frozen under ultra-cold temperatures (-112F to -76F). Vials kept frozen at these temperatures are usable until the expiration date on the vial.

Once defrosted, unused vials can be stored for up to five days at refrigerated temperatures.

Once opened, vials can be stored for up to six hours in a refrigerator or at room temperature.

· Moderna

Vials are shipped frozen at temperatures between -13F and 5F degrees.

Once defrosted, unused vials can be stored for up to 30 days at refrigerated temperatures.

Once opened, vials can be stored for up to six hours at room temperature.

· Johnson and Johnson

Vials are stored frozen but shipped to allow thawing at refrigerated temperatures.

Unused vials can be stored at refrigerated temperatures until the expiration date. The expiration date is not printed on the vials or packages. Vaccinators must use a QR code, call a 1-800 number, or go online to determine the expiration date. The expiration date is usually within three months.

Once opened, vials can be stored at refrigerated temperatures for up to six hours or up to two hours at room temperature.

Some vaccination sites may not have ultra-cold storage freezers for the Pfizer Covid vaccine. Areas with sparse populations or a lack of utility infrastructure may benefit from using the Johnson and Johnson Covid vaccine because it lasts the longest at refrigerated temperatures.

And because the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is a single dose, it may be preferred for people who would have difficulty returning for a second dose.

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