There are currently three COVID-19 vaccines in use in the United States. All three of these vaccines are safe and effective in protecting you from COVID-19, particularly when it comes to hospitalization and death.
However, you may be wondering which of these three vaccines is best for you. The answer to this question can depend on your age and overall health. Keep reading to learn more.
|Pfizer||Moderna||Johnson & Johnson|
|Vaccine type||mRNA||mRNA||viral vector|
|Recommended ages||5 and older||18 and older||18 and older|
|Primary series||2 doses given 21 days (3 weeks) apart||2 doses given 28 days (4 weeks) apart||1 dose|
|Booster dose||5 months after primary series||5 months after primary series||2 months after first dose|
|Recommended booster||Pfizer booster for ages 12–17, Pfizer or Moderna for ages 18 and older||Pfizer or Moderna||Pfizer or Moderna|
Healthy adults have the option of receiving any of the three COVID-19 vaccines. These are the:
Initially, the general rule of thumb was that the best vaccine is the vaccine that you can get now. However, as new data has come in, this has changed slightly over the past few months. Let’s explore this in more detail now.
Choose an mRNA vaccine
At the beginning of 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated their
This change comes after a review of an updated risk-benefit assessment of the COVID-19 vaccines. The CDC based their decision on two main factors:
- the higher vaccine effectiveness of the mRNA vaccines compared to the J&J vaccine
- the risk of serious side effects like thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome and Guillain-Barré syndrome that are associated with the J&J vaccine, but not with the mRNA vaccines
However, the reviewers also noted that the benefits of vaccination still outweigh the risks of remaining unvaccinated. As such, the J&J vaccine can still be used in people who cannot receive an mRNA vaccine.
Either mRNA vaccine is great
The clinical trials for the mRNA vaccines found that both vaccines were safe and had similar effectiveness. Effectiveness was 95 percent and 94.1 percent for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, respectively.
The similar effectiveness of both vaccines also extends into a real-world setting. A 2022 study examined vaccine effectiveness in people vaccinated between January and May 2021. While the two vaccines were still comparable, the Moderna vaccine was slightly more effective at preventing both symptomatic infection and hospitalization.
However, much has changed since these studies. New variants of the novel coronavirus have been identified. These vaccines are generally less effective for the new variants. The most recent of these is the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
Additionally, the CDC has now
A 2022 study of the Pfizer vaccine and the Omicron variant found that vaccine effectiveness was 67.2 percent in the 2 to 4 weeks after a booster, but declined to 45.7 percent after 10 or more weeks.
The two mRNA vaccines are recommended over the J&J vaccine.
While some studies have shown that the Moderna vaccine may be slightly more effective, both mRNA vaccines generally have a comparable effectiveness at protecting you from COVID-19.
Currently, all children ages 5 and older can receive the Pfizer vaccine. Additionally, all children ages 12 and older may receive a booster dose of this vaccine.
However, with the emergence of the Omicron variant, research has found that the Pfizer vaccine isn’t very effective in children ages 5 to 11. A 2022 study, currently in preprint, evaluated vaccine effectiveness within this age range in the months of December 2021 and January 2022. Researchers found that vaccine effectiveness drastically declined from 68 percent to just 11 percent.
A side effect that some people may be concerned about with mRNA vaccines like the Pfizer vaccine is myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart. While this side effect is rare, it’s most often seen in male adolescents and young adults.
The Pfizer vaccine is the only COVID-19 vaccine that’s currently available for children. While rare, myocarditis after vaccination can happen. But it’s more likely after having COVID-19 than after getting vaccinated.
People who are immunocompromised are at an increased risk of severe illness or death due to COVID-19. This includes people who:
- are taking immunosuppressant drugs
- are receiving cancer treatment
- have received an organ or stem cell transplant
- are living with HIV
- have an inherited immunodeficiency syndrome
As with healthy adults, the CDC
Similar to healthy adults, immunocompromised people should get an mRNA vaccine over the J&J vaccine. There don’t appear to be any significant differences between the two mRNA vaccines when it comes to protecting immunocompromised people from COVID-19.
Vaccine schedule for immunocompromised individuals
As we mentioned above, the COVID-19 vaccine schedule for immunocompromised individuals is a little different. The table below shows the CDC’s current
|Age||Primary vaccine series||First doses||Additional dose||Booster dose|
|5–11||Pfizer||2 doses given 21 days (3 weeks) apart||an additional Pfizer dose given at least 28 days (4 weeks) after the second dose||not currently recommended|
|12 and older||Pfizer||2 doses given 21 days (3 weeks) apart||an additional Pfizer dose given at least 28 days (4 weeks) after the second dose||a Pfizer or Moderna booster given at least 3 months after the additional dose|
|18 and older||Moderna||2 doses given 28 days (4 weeks) apart||an additional Moderna dose given at least 28 days (4 weeks) after the second dose||a Pfizer or Moderna booster given at least 3 months after the additional dose|
|18 and older||J&J||1 dose||an additional Pfizer or Moderna dose given at least 28 days (4 weeks) after the first dose||a Pfizer or Moderna booster given at least 2 months after the additional dose|
In order to stay protected from COVID-19, it’s important to stay up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines. But what exactly does this mean?
If you’ve received just your primary vaccine series, you are considered fully vaccinated but not up to date.
The chart below helps to explain in more detail when you’re fully vaccinated versus when you’re up to date.
Overall, receiving any of the COVID-19 vaccines is considered to be better than remaining unvaccinated. This is because all of the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective at protecting you from serious illness or death due to COVID-19.
Some vaccines are recommended over others, however. According to the CDC, receiving an mRNA vaccine is preferred over the J&J vaccine for both healthy and immunocompromised adults.
Children can only receive one type of COVID-19 vaccine at this time. This is the Pfizer vaccine.
More vaccines are also in the pipeline, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled. One of these is the Novavax vaccine, which uses recombinant spike protein from the novel coronavirus. While its effectiveness against the Delta and Omicron variants hasn’t yet been evaluated, large-scale clinical trials showed that the vaccine effectiveness of this vaccine was 90.4 percent against earlier variants.
Staying up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines is important for maintaining protection against COVID-19. Be sure to talk with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about COVID-19 vaccination.