Which vaccine should you get? Fauci says whichever is available

Woman standing in front of fridges of COVID vaccines
Photo via New York National Guard/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The Food and Drug Administration authorized Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine on Feb. 27. With three vaccines now in circulation in the U.S., Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is urging Americans who wonder which vaccine they should get to take whichever vaccine is “most available to them.”

In an appearance on NBC‘s Meet the Press, Fauci said the three approved vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson provide strong protection against COVID-19.

“All three of them are really quite good, and people should take the one that’s most available to them,” he said. “If you go to a place and you have J&J and that’s the one that’s available now, I would take it. I personally would do the same thing. I think people need to get vaccinated as quickly and as expeditiously as possible.”

The vaccine from Johnson & Johnson differs from those developed by Pfizer and Moderna in that it requires only a single dose. Both of the previously approved vaccines require two doses, taken between 21-28 days apart.

The efficacy of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is also slightly lower than that of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The Food and Drug Administration found the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be 86% effective overall, as compared to the effectiveness of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, both of which are at least 94% effective.

Fauci acknowledged the differences in efficacy but urged Americans to avoid comparing numbers. Each shot was examined differently and under different circumstances. So, they can’t be easily compared. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, for example, was undergoing trials after the newly circulating variants had been discovered. It considers its efficacy against the South African strain of the virus as well as its efficacy against the strain we’ve become familiar with in the U.S.

It is also notable that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, unlike those from Moderna and Pfizer, does not need to be shipped frozen. It can be shipped and stored at normal temperatures, avoiding some of the issues the U.S. has experienced surrounding the storage and distribution of the first two vaccines.

It will also make the distribution in less-developed parts of the world a far less daunting task.

“It’s not the weaker vaccine,” Fauci said of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. “They are all three really good vaccines.”

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Sources: CNN, Reuters, NBC

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