• Heather Hoffman

Coronavirus vaccines: brands and benefits

When it comes to vaccinations, the word variety is not frequently used. FIghting for dominance, the leading companies with the most fame and most investors tend to be the most publicized.

Three of these leading companies have broken ground with their version of the COVID-19 vaccination. The main contributors to the coronavirus vaccine production at the current moment are Pfizer and Moderna. Johnson & Johnson is not far behind with a one-dose vaccination rather than the evenly spaced two-dose vaccinations Pfizer and Moderna have created.

With the release date of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine still unknown, there is not as much easily accessible information as there is for the other two contributors. In theory, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will relieve a lot of the financial stress related to receiving two vaccinations rather than one, but effectiveness is still to be determined.

Preferences, like with any other vaccine, are shown by the patients interested in receiving the vaccination — though a large portion of the population seem to be more concerned with contracting COVID-19 and the dangerous symptoms that go along with it, rather than concerning themselves with variations in brand.

With the limited supply of doses, most locations providing vaccines to North Dakota residents are not able to offer more than one brand of dose at one time regardless of patient preference.

The goal of all health establishments is to vaccinate as many citizens as quickly as possible to reduce the effects of the pandemic on public health. All doses are distributed among preapproved establishments from the North Dakota Department of Health, leaving locations unable to offer more brands than what has been provided by the federal government at that time. Currently, there is not a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved vaccine, just the stamp of approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that have been approved under an Emergency Use Authorization in individuals 18 or older. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is a two-dose vaccine with a three-week span between the first and second doses. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is also a two-dose vaccine but has a slightly larger span of 30 days between the first and second doses.

The CDC recommends that no other vaccination be given within 14 days of either brand of currently approved COVID-19 vaccine. The same can likely be expected for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine when it is released as well, though that time frame is yet unknown, as the company is in the midst of a battle to get their one-dose vaccine approved.

Speaking with a provider is always recommended before receiving a vaccination of any kind. In fact, both Moderna and Pfizer specifically recommend getting cleared by your provider if you have any medical conditions regarding allergies, fevers, bleeding disorders, or use of blood thinners; if you are immunocompromised either by disorder or medication; if you are pregnant or planning to be; breastfeeding mothers; or if you have already received another COVID-19 vaccine.

Both vaccines are given via syringe intramuscularly — a needle pressed deeply into the muscle in the upper arm — which can lead to sore muscles. As with every medication, there are potential side effect to keep in mind.

Moderna and Pfizer have reported possible side effects of swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, chills, nausea and vomiting, and fever. Both list the same side effects to be aware of in case of allergic reaction: breathing difficulty, swelling of face and throat, fast heartbeat, extreme full body rash, dizziness, and weakness. The similarity of the vaccines is visible through the vaccine fact sheets that are available on the Trinity Health website, trinity-health.org/covid-19-vaccine. The two vaccines vary slightly in ingredients, such as tromethamine in Moderna versus dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate in Pfizer.

Despite much confusion, there is no live virus in the vaccine and therefore, no chance of contracting the coronavirus from the vaccine itself. The duration of protection is currently unknown and will be re-evaluated when a majority of the population has been vaccinated and the effects and spread of the pandemic has hopefully been reduced.

The CDC stated on Feb. 11, that there is an estimated 34.7 million people that have received at least one dose of their coronavirus vaccination. Trinity Health alone has reported 4,919 doses administered as of Feb. 9, with consistently climbing rates.

Both vaccines have a proven effectiveness against the COVID-19 virus and, per the FDA, has potential benefits that outweigh the known and unknown risks of the vaccinations themselves.

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