Moderna vaccine vs. Pfizer Vaccine: Experts say both are safe and effective

What's next for Moderna's vaccine?

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - With the Food and Drug Administration approving Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, there are now two vaccines ready for distribution to fight against the pandemic. But which vaccine is safest and most effective?

Nurse Manager of the Henrico and Richmond Health Districts, Amy Popovich, says that both provide nearly identical protection against COVID-19.

“Pfizer’s is 95% effective, while Moderna’s is 94.1% effective. So the main message is that both are very effective vaccines,” Popovich said. “We would encourage anyone to get them when they are available.”

Popovich says both vaccines are mRNA vaccines, which work by sending instructions to the cells of the body to make a copy of the spike proteins found on the surface of the COVID-19 virus. Once the body detect the spike proteins, Popovich says the immune response is activated. This triggers our bodies to produce antibodies which are able to effectively fight off the virus.

“Neither vaccine gives you any form of the virus itself,” said Popovich.

Popovich says the most notable difference between the two vaccines is that the Moderna vaccine does not require super cold storage.

“The Pfizer vaccine is stored at negative 70 degrees Celsius, Moderna’s is stored typical vaccine capacity at negative 20 degrees Celsius, and both can be stored for up to six months,” Popovich said. “Both of them can be stored at freezer temperatures, but Pfizer’s for a much shorter time. So Moderna’s is more accessible to communities, smaller hospitals and pharmacies.”

Popovich says both vaccines are similar in that they require two doses to be effective. Pfizer’s vaccine requires three weeks between the first and second doses, while Moderna’s requires about four weeks. The Pfizer vaccine’s FDA emergency use authorization was approved for adults 16 and older, while Moderna’s was approved for 18 and older.

“There are side effects to vaccines, similar to any vaccine, as you’re starting your bodies immune response. So that might be pain at the injection site, fever, headaches, body aches and muscle ache as your body is creating that response to prevent you from getting the COVID-19 virus,” Popovich said.

Governor Ralph Northam says Virginians should expect the first shipment of 146,000 doses in the next few days, but Popovich said the general public will still likely have to wait several weeks for front-line healthcare workers and long-term care residents to get vaccinated first, in accordance to guidelines from the National Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP).

“ACIP has said phase one is for healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities... so it will be a few months before the public will begin to receive it,” Popovich said. “Virginia is approaching both vaccines from the same equity perspective. The focus will be on vaccinating that entire group of 1-A, healthcare personnel and long term residents, before 1-B, when essential workers will be vaccinated.”

VCU Health said it is expecting 3,300 doses of the Moderna’s vaccine by the end of the month.

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