Can you choose which Covid-19 vaccine you get?

With vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna available in the U.S., and others on the horizon, doctors explain whether—and when—you might have a choice

The Wall Street Journal
First Published23 Feb 2021
Can you choose which Covid-19 vaccine you get?
Can you choose which Covid-19 vaccine you get?(AP)

Is it possible to choose which Covid-19 vaccine you get?

The bottom line

For now, you’re unlikely to have a choice. Medical experts say it’s important to take whichever vaccine is offered to you, and both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that are currently authorized in the U.S. have been shown to be highly effective at preventing disease. As vaccine supply increases and more options become available in the coming months and years, there may be more scope for doctors to recommend different types of shots for different populations.

The details

Currently, there is a little bit of wiggle room for people who are determined to get one vaccine over another. People who have registered for vaccination can try to call vaccine sites directly to find out whether they have Pfizer or Moderna shots. But many places don’t inform people ahead of time about which vaccine they will get during the appointment.

In the early stages of the rollout, Pfizer’s vaccine has been more likely to be offered in hospitals, medical centers or large vaccine sites that have the ultracold storage that it was initially believed to need. Moderna’s shots, by contrast, have had less-extreme cold-storage requirements, making them more accessible for smaller pharmacies or offices in addition to larger venues. But now a new study has indicated that Pfizer’s vaccine can be stored and transported at temperatures similar to what a consumer freezer provides. If the FDA approves the change, that should make Pfizer’s vaccine more accessible.

If and when the FDA authorizes the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, it’s also likely to help serve areas without access to high-grade cold storage, says Kathleen Neuzil, director of the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

For now, vaccine providers in various settings don’t generally have a choice in which vaccine arrives to inoculate their patients, says Jonathan Temte, an associate dean at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Later on, it will be up to the healthcare systems to express preference for one or the other, just as they do for many other vaccines, he says.

Eventually, Covid vaccination may be similar to flu vaccination, with recommendations for different subgroups. With the flu vaccine, people over 65 are often advised to take a high-dose version or an adjuvanted option, for instance. With more data, it will be easier for doctors to understand whether certain Covid-19 vaccines are better suited for different populations or health conditions. “We will look at the subgroups and look at the bulk of the evidence to see whether there is a certain group that will benefit,” Dr. Neuzil says, adding that both Pfizer and Moderna are expected to share additional subgroup data later this year. National policy bodies will then make recommendations based on the data, she adds.

But those kinds of choices and recommendations on which type of Covid-19 vaccine to get are still “many months away,” says Dr. Neuzil. “My initial advice is to get the first vaccine that you can get.”

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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