CORONAVIRUS VACCINES

Why is the Moderna vaccine reportedly more effective than the Pfizer and J&J shots?

New research from the CDC suggests that the Moderna vaccination is the most effective, but how much more protection does it offer in the long term?

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Why is the Moderna vaccine reportedly more effective than the Pfizer and J&J shots?
Brian Snyder REUTERS

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that Moderna’s covid-19 vaccine is more effective in preventing hospitalisations than either the Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson shots. Initially the difference between the manufacturers’ jabs is minimal but beyond four months the Moderna vaccine performed considerably better in the study.

Across the board the study found that the Moderna vaccine has a 93% effectiveness at preventing hospitalisation for covid, compared to 88% for Pfizer and 71% for J&J. The data used was drawn from around 3,700 people in 21 hospitals across 18 states.

How does the vaccine efficacy change over time?

The J&J vaccine is primarily used to reach people in remote or inaccessible areas, with the one-dose structure making it easier to administer. The overall effectiveness figures for Moderna (93%) and Pfizer (88%) were fairly similar, but in the longer term Moderna’s vaccine proved far more protective.

After 120 days the Moderna shots remained 92% effective against hospitalisation but the Pfizer vaccine had dropped to 77%. This suggests that the Moderna vaccine is better able to protect recipients from hospitalisation in the long term, but the study’s authors have made clear that the findings of this limited study are far from concrete and that all vaccines are certainly very effective.

They wrote: “Understanding differences in VE by vaccine product can guide individual choices and policy recommendations regarding vaccine boosters. All FDA-approved or authorized COVID-19 vaccines provide substantial protection against COVID-19 hospitalization.”

Studies seem to agree that Moderna is the most effective

A separate study, carried out by the Mayo Clinic in July, found that recipients of a Moderna vaccine are considerably less likely to experience a breakthrough case than those who got the Pfizer jabs. The research was carried out in Florida, a state where cases are at an all-time high and the Delta variant is prevalent, and found that those who had had a Moderna vaccine were 60% less likely to suffer a breakthrough case.

Likewise they found that in Minnesota the Moderna vaccine was considerably more effective than the Pfizer vaccine in observed patients. Experts believe that the rapid growth of the Delta variant over the summer months, variant that was not in existence when the vaccine were first developed, has been the cause of the rise in breakthrough cases.

However in response Pfizer released a statement saying that they "expect to be able to develop and produce a tailor-made vaccine against that variant in approximately 100 days after a decision to do so, subject to regulatory approval."

Despite the disparity between different vaccines the CDC have been clear on the value of all approved vaccinations, pointing out that the risk of hospitalisation or death remains 25x higher amongst unvaccinated Americans.