Vaccine shopping? You should get the one that's made available to you, experts say

As North Carolina continues to expand eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations, infectious disease experts are pointing out subtle differences in available vaccines that may be causing some people to shop around before getting their shot.

"For almost everybody, getting the vaccine that's available to you is the right vaccine," said Dr. Thomas Holland, Assoc. Prof. of Infectious Diseases at Duke University.

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Dr. Holland said the caveat exists for people who may prefer getting vaccinated only once and quicker protection from the virus, which is the case for Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients.

The two mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, on the other hand, tested at higher efficacy rates, each coming out of their trials boasting 95% effective at protecting against COVID-19, compared to J&J which was 72% effective.

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"It's hard to know if there's really any meaningful efficacy difference at all between those vaccines," said Holland. "(The J&J vaccine) was tested at a different time and that was after some of the viral variants that we're worried about had emerged and so we don't actually know in head-to-head fashion if the mRNA vaccines would have done any better in that landscape or that environment a few months later."

Holland, who received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine while his wife who is a teacher recently got the one-shot J&J, said these are small differences and some people may choose to prioritize one over the other, but he urged people waiting for their turn, to take it when they can.

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"The one thing I think people really should not do is delay getting a vaccine because they're waiting for exactly the one they want or they're waiting for a newer one," he said. "All of them work. If you have an option to get one of them then you should get the one that's available."

NCDHHS sent a statement to ABC11 that said, in part: All three vaccines are very effective in preventing virus-related hospitalization and death. The Pfizer vaccine is approved for people over the age of 16, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for adults 18 and older. Getting as many people as possible vaccinated quickly will help turn the tide of this pandemic and also help stop the spread of COVID-19 variants. We strongly recommend people take the first vaccine that is offered to them.
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