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Here's a look at how the 3 US-approved COVID-19 vaccines compare

By Lauren Bennett, KSL.com | Updated - Mar. 1, 2021 at 4:01 p.m. | Posted - Mar. 1, 2021 at 2:47 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — The recently approved Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be available this week, and Gov. Spencer Cox recently said he anticipates vaccine administrations will increase significantly with three available shots on the market.

While each of the three vaccines approved in the United States differs slightly, health officials encourage eligible Utahns to take the first vaccine available to them.

"Having different types of vaccines available for use offers more options and flexibility," the state health department said in an emailed statement. "Getting vaccinated with the first vaccine available to you helps protect all of us from COVID-19."

To date, 371,492 COVID-19 cases have been reported in Utah, with 1,940 deaths and 14,724 total hospitalizations. A total of 721,029 vaccine doses have been administered in Utah as of Monday. Here's a look at some of the similarities and differences between the three COVID-19 vaccines approved and available now: Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

Are the vaccines safe?

Health experts are confident all three vaccines are safe and effective, according to the Utah Department of Health. Although all three vaccines have been approved quickly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assure residents that each one has been held up to the same rigorous safety standards as any vaccines developed in the past for other viruses. Additionally, clinical trials were conducted for each vaccine and data showed the doses were safe and effective.

"The benefits of getting vaccinated far outweigh the risks of getting COVID-19," health department officials wrote on UDOH's website.


Getting vaccinated with the first vaccine available to you helps protect all of us from COVID-19.

–Statement from the Utah Department of Health


Age limits

Pfizer: 16 years and older

Moderna: 18 years and older

Johnson & Johnson: 18 years and older

Doses and efficacy

Pfizer: Requires two shots 21 days apart for maximum protection. The vaccine was 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 disease among trial participants.

Moderna: Requires two shots 28 days apart for maximum protection. In clinical trials, the vaccine was 94% effective in preventing COVID-19 disease.

Individuals who receive either of the two-dose vaccines need to get the same vaccine for their second dose, according to the FDA. There is no data available on the interchangeability of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines. Additionally, individuals should not receive their second shot before the recommended timeline and should try to get the second dose as close to the recommended day as possible; however, second doses can be given up to six weeks after the first dose.

J&J: The vaccine is a single-dose shot that was proven to be 67% effective in preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 during the clinical trials.

The vaccine was about 85% effective at preventing several/critical COVID-19 infections starting about 28 days after vaccination. Additionally, no deaths or hospitalizations occurred in the trial after the 28-day period.

While each vaccine differs slightly, health officials encourage eligible Utahns to take the first vaccine available to them.

"Having different types of vaccines available for use offers more options and flexibility," the state health department said in an emailed statement. "Getting vaccinated with the first vaccine available to you helps protect all of us from COVID-19."

How are the vaccines stored?

Pfizer: As an mRNA vaccine, meaning no live virus is injected and instead it gives the body instructions on how to make a protein to induce an immune response virus, the Pfizer doses need to be stored at below-freezing temperatures.

Moderna: Just like Pfizer, Moderna is also an mRNA vaccine that needs below-freezing storage.

J&J: Doses can be stored between 47 degrees Fahrenheit and 77 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 12 hours. The shot is a viral vector vaccine, which means a harmless adenovirus acts as the vector and is replaced part of its genetic code with instructions for the COVID-19 spike protein, PBS News reported.

Side effects and possible allergic reactions

Pfizer: The most common reported side effects for the shot are injection site pain, fatigue, headaches, muscle pain, fever, nausea, feeling unwell and small rashes.

Moderna: Reported side effects include pain, swelling or redness at the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, chills, nausea and vomiting, and fever.

Most patients experience short-term side effects after the second dose of their shot, which experts say indicates the vaccine is working and creating an immune response.

J&J: The most common reported side effects typically occurred within a few days of getting the shot and subsided after 1-2 days, according to the FDA. Among the side effects were pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and nausea.

It's possible to experience an allergic reaction to any of the three shots. Vaccine providers in Utah typically keep patients for about 30 minutes to monitor and track if an allergic reaction occurs. Those who experience an allergic reaction to any of the three shots can experience difficulty breathing, swelling of the face and throat, a racing heart, a rash and dizziness, according to the fact sheets for the different vaccines.

What do I do if I am exposed to COVID-19 after being vaccinated?

Two weeks after receiving the full dosage of a COVID-19 vaccine, individuals are considered immune and are no longer required to quarantine when exposed to the virus, according to state health department guidelines. However, if someone who hasn't been fully vaccinated yet gets exposed to COVID-19, they should get tested and quarantine — even those in between their two doses.

Even after vaccination, masks and social distancing measures are still recommended for everyone until higher numbers of the population are vaccinated and more data is available on if vaccinated individuals can spread the virus.

Will I have to pay to get any of the shots?

All COVID-19 vaccines have been bought with U.S. taxpayer money and will be administered to everyone who wants one free of charge. For insured individuals, a provider may bill the insurance a fee to administer the shot.

How long will I be protected?

Data is not yet available for any of the three approved vaccines to know how long vaccinated individuals will be protected.

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