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Which COVID-19 Vaccine Is Best for You?

Feb. 12, 2021 - Katie McCallum

(This article was updated on 2/11/2022)

With some vaccines, you have options — like with the various types of flu vaccines. With other vaccines, you don't.

The new COVID-19 vaccines fall into the former category.

"Each of the currently authorized or approved vaccines provide strong protection against COVID-19 — reducing severe illness, hospitalization and death," says Dr. Ashley Drews, medical director of infection prevention and control at Houston Methodist. 

Here's what you need to know about the currently approved COVID-19 vaccines

So far, two vaccines are fully approved by the FDA and one has received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA):

  • The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (fully approved)
  • The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (fully approved)
  • The Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, also known as the Johnson & Johnson, (J&J) vaccine
     

Here are the need-to-know fast facts about these vaccines:

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine

  • Date of authorization: Dec. 11, 2020
  • Date of full approval: Aug. 23, 2021
  • Type of vaccine: mRNA vaccine
  • Number of doses: 2 shots, 3 weeks apart
  • Effectiveness: 95% effective at preventing disease
  • Most common side effects: Pain, redness and swelling at the site of the injection, headache, fatigue and chills
  • Age requirement: 5 years of age or older
  • Third shot and booster availability: Certain people are eligible

*If you have had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in this vaccine or in response to your first dose, do not take the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

  • Date of authorization: Dec. 18, 2020
  • Date of full approval: Jan. 31, 2022
  • Type of vaccine: mRNA vaccine
  • Number of doses: 2 shots, 4 weeks apart
  • Effectiveness: 94.1% effective at preventing disease
  • Most common side effects: Pain, redness and swelling at the site of the injection, headache, fatigue and chills
  • Age requirement: 18 years of age or older
  • Third shot and booster availability: Certain people are eligible

*If you have had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in this vaccine or in response to your first dose, do not take the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 Vaccine

  • Date of authorization: Feb. 27, 2021
  • Type of vaccine: Viral vector vaccine
  • Number of doses: 1 shot
  • Effectiveness: 77% effective at preventing severe illness
  • Most common side effects: Pain, redness and swelling at the site of injection, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and nausea
  • Age requirement: 18 years of age or older
  • Booster availability: Anyone who is 18 years of age or older and received the J&J vaccine at least two months ago is eligible for a second dose of the vaccine.

* If you have had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in this vaccine, do not take the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine.

**After a temporary pause, use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine has resumed. However, the CDC has stated that women under the age of 50 should be aware of the rare but increased risk of experiencing an adverse event called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS). This risk has not been seen with the other COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S., Pfizer and Moderna. Women between the ages of 18 and 49 should discuss vaccine options with their doctor if they have questions or concerns.


Sign up for your COVID-19 vaccine:

All individuals age 5 and older are currently eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Texas.

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