Comparing COVID-19 Vaccines

by Tyler Williams

(Nurse Reynaldo Pella, left, was one of five staff members to simultaneously receive the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, N.J., Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. The hospital received almost 1000 doses of the vaccine in the middle of a snowstorm which blanketed much of the Northeast in snow. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)



Recently, the Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine received backlash due to the negative side effects some patients experienced. In particular, they dealt with blood clots from the J&J vaccine. A CNN report stated among more than 7 million people who've received the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, at least seven have experienced very rare blood clots in the brain -- one man during clinical trials and six women during the vaccine's rollout, which was put on pause because of blood clot concerns.


According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who have taken the  J&J vaccine within the past three weeks and developed severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath should seek medical care immediately. Now, let’s compare the vaccines that are available to the public. Therefore, the public can make an informed decision on the vaccinations that are accessible to them.


(Source: Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC))



The following information in the table below is from Yale Medicine.


The CDC provided an explanation on how vaccines work with the help of our immune system. “Our immune system uses several tools to fight infection. Blood contains red cells, which carry oxygen to tissues and organs, and white or immune cells, which fight infection.” Different types of white blood cells fight infection in different ways: Macrophages are white blood cells that swallow up and digest germs and dead or dying cells. The macrophages leave behind parts of the invading germs, called “antigens”. The body identifies antigens as dangerous and stimulates antibodies to attack them.


Furthermore, B-lymphocytes are defensive white blood cells. They produce antibodies that attack the pieces of the virus left behind by the macrophages. T-lymphocytes are another type of defensive white blood cell. They attack cells in the body that have already been infected, the CDC says. Additionally, the CDC explained that, “The first time a person is infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, it can take several days or weeks for their body to make and use all the germ-fighting tools needed to get over the infection. After the infection, the person’s immune system remembers what it learned about how to protect the body against that disease.” The body keeps a few T-lymphocytes, called “memory cells”, that go into action quickly if the body encounters the same virus again. When the familiar antigens are detected, B-lymphocytes produce antibodies to attack them. Experts are still learning how long these memory cells protect a person against the virus that causes COVID-19, reported the CDC.


As far as how the vaccines work, typically it takes a few weeks after vaccination for the body to produce T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes. It is possible that a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and then get sick because the vaccine did not have enough time to provide protection. Sometimes after vaccination, the process of building immunity can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are signs that the body is building immunity.


A USA Today article addressed “many vaccines use weakened or inactivated versions or components of the disease-causing pathogen to stimulate the body’s immune response. However, the vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna take advantage of messenger RNA (mRNA), which instructs cells to produce a protein on the surface of the virus. The immune system recognizes those vaccine-triggered spike proteins as invaders and creates antibodies to block future attacks of the virus that causes COVID-19.”


(Source: Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC))


As of February 27, 2021, AstraZeneca and Novavax (both COVID-19 vaccines) are currently in​ large-scale (Phase 3) clinical trials. They are in the process of being planned in the United States, added the CDC website. Meanwhile, in the Eastern World, China is considering mixing COVID-19 vaccines in order to boost efficacy and the protection rate. A Reuters article found out that Gao Fu, the director of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, "Inoculation using vaccines of different technical lines is being considered."


Fortunately with more information and coverage on the different types of COVID-19 vaccines, it might be slightly easier deciding which vaccine is feasible for you. To schedule your vaccination appointment, visit vaccines.gov or contact your state’s health department.


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