Local infectious disease doctor explains similarities between Pfizer, Moderna vaccines

HOUSTON – On Thursday, the nation could be one step closer to its second vaccine to fight the coronavirus.

An FDA advisory committee will decide whether to recommend the vaccine biotech company Moderna has created. A local expert explained the differences between the Moderna vaccine and the one approved last week from Pfizer.

“I would have no qualms with receiving either vaccine,” said Dr. Jennifer Whiatker, an infectious disease specialist with Baylor College of Medicine.

Whitaker was one of the investigators who worked on the Moderna vaccine trial. She also received the Pfizer vaccine Tuesday.

Whitaker says the two vaccines actually are very similar. Both require two doses, with 28 days between the two Moderna shots and 21 days between the ones for Pfizer. Both are considered 95% efficient.

But the Moderna vaccine is recommended for patients 18 and older while Pfizer’s vaccine can be administered to patients as young as 16. The Moderna drug also can be stored longer and at higher temperatures.

“It might be a little bit easier to distribute the Moderna vaccine,” Whitaker said. “It doesn’t have to be kept at such a cool temperature.”

At the end of the day, Whitaker says there is not much difference at all between the two vaccines. She advises patients to seek one of the other as supplies for both will be limited.

“As they’re becoming available I think it would be important for patients to get whichever vaccine is available to them at this point in time,” she said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, says if the FDA advisory committee recommends the Moderna vaccine tomorrow afternoon it actually could be approved by the FDA as early as tomorrow evening.

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