TAMPA, Fla. — While there are minor differences between COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer, virologists say those preparing to take the shot should not worry about choosing one over the other.
“Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are actually really similar,” said Dr. Michael Teng, a virologist and associate professor at the University of South Florida.
Both vaccines rely on messenger RNA technology to stimulate the immune system and fight the coronavirus, and neither of the vaccines uses the live virus.
“The idea for the messenger RNA is that you take a little segment of messenger RNA (mRNA), and get it into those cells in your body, and your body produces the protein of the virus. So, you can use that to immunize people,” Teng said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mRNA vaccines “teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.”
There are some other differences between the vaccines when it comes to distribution and storage. Both vaccines are more than 90-percent effective, but doctors call the Moderna vaccine more "stable."
This doesn't have to do with how it works in your body, just how it's stored. Hospitals can store the Moderna doses at regular freezer temperatures, whereas the Pfizer vaccine needs to stay at negative 94 degrees.
"I think that distribution is going to be a big thing,” Teng said.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a press conference on Monday there will be limited to the number of vaccines initially available once they are approved, and the state will be strategic in terms of who gets it first.
“The long term care facilities, I think, are a very big priority because that's where 40 percent of the mortality nationwide occurred for residents in long-term care because they are in congregate settings where the virus can spread more if it gets in, and they obviously usually have two, three, comorbidities, and…advanced age,” he said.
Doctors also warn people that the vaccine might come with side effects, but they are typically minimal and mostly limited to low-grade fever, minor aches at the injection site and fatigue.
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