The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now granted emergency use authorizations (EUA) for not one, but two, COVID-19 vaccines! These crowning achievements of lighting fast scientific development belong to Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, and in issuing EAU’s, the FDA is publicly declaring that they have performed an extensive and careful review of all available safety and effectiveness information, and have found that the potential benefits of the vaccines outweigh any known and potential risks.
And while we are now finally on the path to turning the tide on this relentless pandemic, there are undoubtedly plenty of lingering questions about these two vaccines. For example, are they the same? If not, how do they differ? And of course, are there any side effects?
Please read on, as we hope to answer all of these questions and more!
What exactly is an EAU?
Unlike when a vaccine receives FDA approval, an EUA can be revised or revoked and is only effective until the circumstances that caused its issuance no longer exist. Under EUA, the FDA mandates that manufacturers provide vaccination providers and recipients with access to fact sheets that contain important information regarding vaccine dosing, benefits, and risks. In fact, manufacturers must also submit a pharmacovigilance plan to the FDA, which details their plans to continue longer-term safety follow-up and monitoring for participants with ongoing clinical trials, as well as their commitment to pursue vaccine approval.
Two vaccines are better than one
Generally speaking, the Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna vaccines are very similar. That said, upon closer examination, there are a few key differences that are important to keep in mind.
Here is a quick comparison to help get you up to speed.
- Type: Both vaccines function by using mRNA (messenger RNA). Most vaccines trigger an immune response by putting a weakened or inactivated germ into our body. Messenger RNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that then triggers an immune response in our bodies.
- Effectiveness: To date, both vaccines have shown similar efficacy levels of near 95%.
- Side Effects: And here’s perhaps the best thing these vaccines have in common: to date, neither have shown any serious, long-term side effects. That said, pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever are side effects that have been commonly reported for both vaccines. Also, it is important to note that these side effects have been more prevalent after the second dose than the first.
- Structure: While both vaccines rely on messenger RNA, they do have slightly different structures and makeup, which necessitate different handling and storage requirements.
- Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored at about minus-75 degrees Celsius (about 50 degrees colder than any vaccine currently used in the U.S.)
- Moderna’s vaccine can be stored at about minus-20 degrees Celsius (about the temperature of a home freezer)
- Pfizer’s vaccine can be kept in the refrigerator for up to five days before it expires
- Moderna’s vaccine can be kept in a refrigerator for 30 days before it expires
- Access: Due to the different storage requirements, Pfizer’s vaccine is more likely to be found in major institutions with established infrastructure, such as hospitals, while Moderna’s vaccine is more likely to be found in smaller facilities, such as community pharmacies.
- Dosage and timing: Moderna’s vaccine is administered as two 100-microgram doses given 28 days apart, while Pfizer’s vaccine is administered as two 30-microgram doses given 21 days apart.
- Age: Pfizer’s vaccine is authorized for people 16 and older while Moderna’s is authorized for people 18 and older.
|Type||Messenger RNA||Messenger RNA|
|Cold Storage||-75 degrees CelsiusRequires complex, expensive ultra-cold freezers with dry iceLasts 5 days in refrigerator||-20 degrees CelsiusCan be stored in a home freezer Lasts 30 days in refrigerator|
|Dosage & Timing||Two 30-microgram doses 21 days apart||Two 100-microgram doses 28 days apart|
|Age||16 and older||18 and older|
|Long-term side effects||None (to date)||None (to date)|
|Short-term side effects||Pain at injection siteFatigueHeadacheMuscle painChillsJoint painFever||Pain at injection siteFatigueHeadacheMuscle painChillsJoint painFever|
PrescribeWellness COVID-19 vaccination resource center
PrescribeWellness remains committed to keeping you up to date with everything you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine and continues to offer our frontline providers the opportunity to secure authorized and reliable COVID-19 testing kits through our online purchase form. Additionally, for the latest information on requirements, reporting, and reimbursement related to the COVID-19 vaccine, please visit our new COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Center.
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