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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?

"Each of the currently approved vaccines provides 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.

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.

**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 16 and older are currently eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Texas.

 

This article was updated on April 26, 2021 to reflect the current state of the COVID-19 vaccine landscape.

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