The Newtown Chamber of Commerce recently held a virtual roundtable discussion with Nuvance Health President and CEO Dr John Murphy. He discussed the differences between the three COVID-19 vaccines approved for emergency use in the United States. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses and storage in colder temperatures than the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine because they use different technology.
Pfizer and Moderna use a fairly novel vaccine approach, although the mRNA technology has been available and studied for about 30 years. Murphy says it uses the sequence of the virus. It's plugged into RNA, a series of blueprints delivered into a cell, the cell then knows it's time to make a spike protein. When the spike protein gets released by the cell, the body makes a robust production of antibodies so if the real virus appears with the real spikes, the body will recognize it as foreign and eliminate it.
Murphy notes that both are remarkably effective, and put it in context of an annual flu vaccine. The flu vaccine is typically 50-percent to 60-percent effective in any given year. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 95-percent effective against mild, moderate and severe forms of COVID-19. He notes it's 100-percent effective against severe disease, the kind that would land someone in a hospital or could be fatal.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is similar to a flu vaccine, where the virus doesn't have the ability to reproduce when it's introduced into the body. Murphy says the virus is not infectious, but codes for the spike protein. J&J is 100-percent effective against severe illness and death.