When the COVID-19 vaccines began rolling out, there were initially two big ones that folks in the U.S. could choose from: Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. While both are completely safe in guarding against the coronavirus, the question of which one to choose was one that many people seriously considered–sometimes leading to memeified tribalism.
However, now that we’re a few years into the rollout, scientists have had time to research their effectiveness amongst certain segments of the population–and now we have a much clearer picture about which vaccine might be good for who.
Brown University researchers published a study Wednesday in the journal JAMA Network Open that found that the Moderna vaccine was linked to slightly lower incidence of adverse events than the Pfizer vaccine in adults 66 years old or older. The authors say both vaccines are safe and effective, but they also note that this study could provide people with more information to help them make a decision about getting vaccinated.
“Public health officials can use the results of this research to determine which mRNA vaccination is best for older adults, including those who are frailer. Lead author Daniel Harris of Brown University School of Public Health said that it could help them decide on which vaccines would be most effective in older people and subgroups of older individuals.
Again, we can’t emphasize this enough: The study’s authors found that both vaccines were safe to use. The risk of adverse events is far higher with a COVID-19 infection, which means that any of the approved vaccines are better than no vaccine at all.
However, the Moderna vaccine was linked to a 15 percent lowered risk of being diagnosed with COVID-19 amongst older adults. Additionally, there was a 4 percent lower risk of pulmonary embolism, which occurs when there’s a sudden blockage of blood vessels in the lungs; and a 2 percent lower risk of blood clotting issues called thromboembolic events.
Harris explained that the research was borne out of a need for more data to help patients make informed decisions on how to get vaccinated. Now that the vast majority of the world’s population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and vaccine supply is far less of an issue, the research could help encourage those who have yet to be vaccinated to get one that they feel more comfortable with and could potentially be more effective. As new variants pop up, the research could help inform people who are getting boosters or vaccinated for the first time too.
Additionally, older adults can have different and unexpected responses to vaccines. Understanding how these vaccines work for them is integral in ensuring their health.
“Immunization with either mRNA vaccine is substantially better and safer than not being vaccinated at all,” Harris said. “But in an ideal world where we can have a choice between which vaccine product is used, we wanted to see whether one vaccine was associated with better performance for older adults and those with increased frailty.”
It’s good to finally be at a place where we can focus our research on which vaccine is best for what age group and population. While it might feel like the early days of the pandemic happened just yesterday, we’re finally approaching the point where we might soon have it in our rearview mirror for good.
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