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    Comparing the differences between COVID-19 vaccines

    covid-19 vaccine vials and syringe

    Millions of Americans are eager to return to normal life, and according to the CDC and other leading health experts, getting vaccinated is the best way to put the COVID-19 pandemic behind us. As vaccines receive FDA authorization, you might have questions about how each one works to help our bodies fight COVID-19, including:


    • How many types of COVID-19 vaccines are there?

    • Which approved COVID-19 vaccines are recommended?

    • What are the differences between the COVID-19 vaccines? 


    COVID-19 vaccines are currently the best protection we have against becoming seriously ill with the virus. Here is some information you need to know about the differences between the vaccines. 


    How many types of COVID-19 vaccines are there?

    While several vaccines are being studied in both global and U.S. clinical trials, there are currently only three FDA-authorized vaccines for use in the U.S.:
    • Pfizer-BioNTech

    • Moderna

    • Johnson & Johnson/Janssen

    As of 4/23/21, the pause on the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine has been lifted. Learn more.

    Which approved COVID-19 vaccines are recommended?

    All three COVID-19 vaccines are FDA-authorized and proven equally effective in preventing hospitalization and death related to COVID-19. So while each vaccine might have different ingredients or technology, that means that all three vaccines are FDA-recommended – and that the best vaccine is the one that’s available to you.


    What are the differences between the COVID-19 vaccines?

    All three vaccines effectively prevent severe illness and death related to COVID-19, but there are some key differences in certain factors, including how each vaccine is administered, its ingredients, and the technology it uses to protect your body against the virus. 


    There are currently two main categories of vaccine technology used in the COVID-19 vaccines: mRNA vaccines and viral vector vaccines. Here is some more information about how they work:


    mRNA Vaccines (Two-dose Vaccines): Pfizer-BioNTech & Moderna


    This new type of vaccine is different from many traditional vaccines we are used to. Instead of putting a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies so we can build immunity against an infectious disease, mRNA vaccines cause our cells to make a protein that triggers an immune response, creating antibodies that provide protection if the actual virus enters our bodies.


    Viral Vector Vaccines (One-dose Vaccines): Johnson & Johnson / Janssen 


    This type of vaccine utilizes a modified version of a different virus than COVID-19, known as a vector. In these vaccines, the vector (in this case, a harmless, non-COVID-19 virus) enters a cell in our body and then causes the cell to produce a harmless piece of the COVID-19 virus, known as a spike protein. Our immune system recognizes the spike protein, and begins to produce antibodies as a defense. Eventually, our bodies learn how to protect us against future infection.




    No matter which type of FDA-authorized vaccine you receive, you can rest assured that it’s highly effective at doing its job: preventing hospitalization or death related to COVID-19. The most important thing to focus on is getting vaccinated, and continuing to all do our part in the fight against the virus.

    To schedule an appointment or learn more, visit our COVID-19 vaccine page