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Which COVID-19 Vaccine Is Best for You?

Feb. 12, 2021 - Katie McCallum

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.

Due to high demand right now, however, it's likely you won't have a choice of which specific COVID-19 vaccine you receive. But does that matter?

"There's really no best vaccine at this point, so I recommend taking the first COVID-19 vaccine made available to you," says Dr. Ashley Drews, medical director of infection prevention and control at Houston Methodist. "Each of the currently approved vaccines provides strong protection against COVID-19 — reducing severe illness, hospitalization and death — and have similar types and rates of side effects."

Right now, having any amount of protection is better than none. And if a more effective COVID-19 vaccine becomes available to you later, you may be able to receive that one as well.

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

So far, three vaccines have received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA:

  • The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
  • The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine
  • 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 approval: Dec. 11, 2020
  • 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: 16 years of age or older

*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 approval: Dec. 18, 2020
  • 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

*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 approval: 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

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

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