Which COVID-19 vaccine should I get?

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

COVID-19 vaccine bottles

This article has been reviewed by our chief medical consultant Dr. Charles Schutz. Source data for this article were gathered from the CDC and FDA. 

It’s understandable to have questions or concerns about how the three approved COVID-19 vaccines were developed, tested, and approved for distribution within the course of a year.

Before we arrived at this point, a combination of unprecedented factors led to the successful development and approval of these lifesaving measures in record time. The most important thing to know is that the same rigorous safety and effectiveness standards were applied to the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines as all other available types of vaccines in the United States.

That’s why public health experts recommend receiving whichever one of the three is made available to you as all three have proven to be effective against severe illness, hospitalization, and death.

Pandemic Spurs Cooperation

In May 2020, the White House announced Operation Warp Speed – a first of its kind cooperative between normally competing private businesses and the federal government to accelerate the development, production, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

Through this partnership, pharmaceutical companies, manufacturers, and distributors were incentivized to work together under a common goal of delivering safe and effective vaccines. With financial incentives in place, the government also agreed to provide the necessary resources for the FDA and other regulatory bodies to accelerate the paperwork and review processes.

Prior vaccine research for similar viruses, MERS and SARS, along with cutting-edge production methods and technological advances allowed scientists to develop dozens of vaccine candidates using a range of methods and techniques once enough information about the coronavirus was gathered. And due to the severity of the pandemic, the most promising candidates were able to recruit dozens of thousands of participants from all different kinds of backgrounds to take part in clinical trials.

All of these factors have contributed to the early positive results demonstrated thus far by the Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J vaccines.

How COVID-19 Vaccines Work

The vaccines introduce a harmless piece of the virus known as the spike protein, which is found on the surface of the coronavirus. This triggers our immune cells to defend against a perceived threat of that nature. None of the vaccines contain the live virus and you cannot develop a COVID -19 infection from any of the vaccines. The benefit of these vaccines is that you can avoid the risk of contracting serious illness while creating the same antibodies to protect you in the future.

The J&J vaccine is administered in a single dose, while the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require a second shot at least 21 and 28 days, respectively, after receiving the first dose. You are not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after receiving your only or second dose.

Both vaccines have produced similar, common side effects such as:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Chills
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
Although these may feel like flu symptoms, this is your body creating an immune system response and you should feel normal again in a few days.

Encouraging Results

More than 143 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have already been administered in the United States since the rollout began in mid-December under unprecedented safety monitoring. The results of these monitoring efforts have been reassuring, according to the CDC, with many people reporting only mild side effects or no side effects at all. Please consider scheduling a vaccine appointment when you are eligible to do so.

Slow the Spread

Getting enough people vaccinated to get us out of the pandemic will not happen overnight. That’s why it is important to continue doing your part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect yourself, your loved ones and community by doing the following:

  • Wear a mask to protect yourself and others.
  • Practice social distancing.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Avoid indoor gatherings with those outside your immediate household.
For guidance about your individual health concerns related to the COVID-19 vaccines, please reach out to your primary care physician.


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