March 30, 2021

Experts agree all available COVID-19 vaccines are effective

With 3 safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines in the United States, medical experts agree that the best vaccine is the one that’s available now.

As more COVID-19 vaccines become available, people may wonder if one is better than the others. Reports have even suggested some people are “shopping” for specific brands. However, medical experts say all 3 vaccines currently available in the United States are safe and highly effective, and they warn that delaying vaccination to wait for a preferred brand could be risky.

Katie Sharff, MD, an infectious disease leader with Kaiser Permanente in the Northwest, answers some common questions about how the 3 vaccines — Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer — compare and whether people should seek out one over another.

What concerns have people shared when comparing the vaccines?

There is so much focus on the vaccine efficacy numbers that have been reported, but many people don’t understand exactly what those numbers mean. In clinical trials, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were shown to be 95% effective, and Johnson & Johnson reported 72% efficacy against moderate to severe disease in the United States. What’s missed in the message is that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 100% effective at preventing hospitalization and death after recipients achieved full protection from vaccination, making it a highly effective vaccine.

What’s the problem with waiting for a specific vaccine?

Right now, COVID-19 cases are on the decline in many parts of the country, but the coronavirus is still circulating, so every day you aren’t vaccinated is another day you’re at risk. The faster we can get people vaccinated, the more we reduce the burden on medical resources, provide protection to our most vulnerable populations, and lower the odds of new variants emerging.

What is herd immunity?

Herd immunity, also known as community immunity, is reached when enough people have protection against a disease — either by vaccine or natural infection — so that the disease is less able to circulate. Not only are those people protected, but herd immunity indirectly protects people around them who are not yet eligible for vaccination or who aren’t candidates for the vaccine for other reasons. It’s critical that we get to this level of protection, and the more vaccines we have available, the more opportunities we have to get there.

What else should people know about the COVID-19 vaccines?

Any shot is a good shot. All of the approved vaccines have been thoroughly tested and are safe, effective, and life-saving. When it’s your turn, you should feel confident taking whichever vaccine brand is available. The faster we get communities vaccinated, the faster we can get back to normal life.