Comparing the differences between COVID-19 vaccines

By Mayo Clinic Staff

October 26, 2022

See the different COVID-19 vaccines:

Type

Pfizer Type

mRNA vaccine

Moderna Type

mRNA vaccine

Janssen/Johnson & Johnson Type

Vector vaccine

Effectiveness

Pfizer Effectiveness

91% effective at preventing severe illness with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) virus in people age 16 and older

Greater than 89% effective in preventing people with health conditions, such as diabetes or obesity, from developing the COVID-19 virus with symptoms

100% effective at preventing the COVID-19 virus in children ages 12 through 15

91% effective in preventing the COVID-19 in children ages 5 through 11

Appears to protect against severe COVID-19 due to COVID-19 variants

Moderna Effectiveness

94% effective at preventing the COVID-19 virus with symptoms

Greater than 90% effective in preventing people with health conditions, such as diabetes or obesity, from developing the COVID-19 virus with symptoms

Appears to protect against severe COVID-19 due to COVID-19 variants

Janssen/Johnson & Johnson Effectiveness

66% effective at preventing the COVID-19 virus with symptoms

85% effective at preventing the COVID-19 virus with severe illness

Appears to protect against severe COVID-19 due to COVID-19 variants

Novavax Effectiveness

90% effective at preventing mild, moderate and severe illness with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) virus in people age 18 and older

79% effective in people age 65 and older

Appears to protect against severe COVID-19 due to COVID-19 variants

Doses

Pfizer Doses

Two doses are needed, 21 days apart (or up to six weeks apart, if needed) in the U.S.

Three doses are needed for age 6 months through age 4, with the first two shots given 3 to 8 weeks apart and the third shot at least eight weeks after the second shot

Some protection provided after the first dose

The CDC recommends an additional primary shot of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (at least 28 days after the second dose) for some people age 5 and older with weakened immune systems, such as those who have had an organ transplant. People with weakened immune systems might not develop enough immunity after vaccination with two doses of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. An additional primary shot might improve their protection against the COVID-19 virus.

People ages 5 and older who had all recommended doses of a COVID-19 vaccine can get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 updated, or bivalent, booster.. People age 6 and older can choose between the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna COVID-19 bivalent vaccine booster. People can get the booster shot at least two months after their last shot.

People 18 and older may also get a Novavax booster based on the original virus strain six months after their last shot.

People age 5 and older who have a weakened immune system and have had all recommended doses of a COVID-19 vaccine can get an updated, or bivalent, booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The bivalent booster can be given at least two months after the last shot.

Moderna Doses

Two doses are needed for ages 18 and up, 28 days apart (or up to six weeks apart, if needed) in the U.S.

Two doses are needed for ages 6 months through age 17, four to eight weeks apart

Some protection provided after the first dose

The CDC recommends an additional primary shot of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (at least 28 days after the second dose) for some people with weakened immune systems, such as those who have had an organ transplant. People with weakened immune systems might not develop enough immunity after vaccination with two doses of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. An additional primary shot might improve their protection against the COVID-19 virus.

People ages 5 and older who had all recommended doses of a COVID-19 vaccine can get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 updated, or bivalent, booster. People age 6 and older can choose between the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna COVID-19 bivalent vaccine booster. People can get the booster shot at least two months after their last shot.

People 18 and older may also get a Novavax booster based on the original virus strain six months after their last shot.

People age 5 and older who have a weakened immune system and have had all recommended doses of the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or Novavax COVID-19 vaccines can get an updated, or bivalent, booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The bivalent booster can be given at least two months after the last shot.

Janssen/Johnson & Johnson Doses

One dose is needed

Some protection provided two weeks after vaccination

There isn’t enough research to determine if people with weakened immune systems who got a Janssen/Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine have an improved response after getting an additional dose of the same vaccine.

If you are age 18 or older, and got the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, you can get either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna mRNA bivalent booster doses at least two months after your shot.

People 18 and older may also get a Novavax booster based on the original virus strain six months after their last shot.

People age 18 and older who have a weakened immune system and have had all recommended doses of the COVID-19 vaccines can get either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna mRNA COVID-19 bivalent boosters at least two months after the last shot.

Novavax Doses

Two doses are needed for ages 12 and up, 3 to 8 weeks apart in the U.S.

People 12 and older who had all recommended doses of a COVID-19 vaccine can choose between the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna COVID-19 updated, or bivalent, vaccine booster at least two months after their last shot.

People 18 and older may also get a Novavax booster based on the original virus strain six months after their last shot.

Side effects

Pfizer Side effects

Injection site pain, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, fever, nausea, feeling unwell and swollen lymph nodes

Note: Rarely, some people have had heart problems after getting a mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. Seek medical care if you have chest pain, shortness of breath or feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heart within a week of getting the vaccine.

Moderna Side effects

Injection site pain, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, fever, nausea, feeling unwell and swollen lymph nodes

Note: Rarely, some people have had heart problems after getting a mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. Seek medical care if you have chest pain, shortness of breath or feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heart within a week of getting the vaccine.

Janssen/Johnson & Johnson Side effects

Injection site pain, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea

Note: If you received this vaccine within the last three weeks and are experiencing any unexplained new severe symptoms, seek emergency care.

Use of the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine might increase the risk of a rare and serious blood clotting disorder. Nearly all of those affected have been women ages 18 to 49.

As a result, the CDC recommends getting an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine over getting the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Research suggests there isn’t an increased risk for this disorder after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination.

Possible severe symptoms include shortness of breath, persistent stomach pain, severe or persistent headache, blurred vision, chest pain, leg swelling, easy bruising, and tiny red spots on the skin.

Rarely, some people may develop Guillain-Barre syndrome after getting the vaccine. Seek immediate medical care if you have weakness or tingling sensations, difficulty walking, difficulty with facial movements, double vision, and difficulty with bladder control.

Novavax Side effects

Injection site pain, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, fever, nausea, feeling unwell and swollen lymph nodes

Ingredients

Pfizer Ingredients

Doesn't contain eggs, latex or preservatives

Moderna Ingredients

Doesn't contain eggs, latex or preservatives

Janssen/Johnson & Johnson Ingredients

Doesn't contain eggs, latex or preservatives

Novavax Ingredients

Doesn't contain eggs, latex or preservatives

Authorization and safety

Pfizer Authorization and safety

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for people age 12 and older for Pfizer BioNTech, now called Comirnaty

FDA emergency use authorization for people age 6 months to 11

Safety closely monitored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and FDA

Moderna Authorization and safety

FDA approval for people 18 and older for Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, now called Spikevax.

FDA emergency use authorization for children ages 6 months through 17 years old

Safety closely monitored by the CDC and FDA

Janssen/Johnson & Johnson Authorization and safety

FDA emergency use authorization

Continues to be recommended by the FDA and CDC after a pause because the benefits outweigh the risks

Safety closely monitored by the CDC and FDA

Novavax Authorization and safety

FDA emergency use authorization for people age 12 and older

Safety closely monitored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and FDA

Eligibility

Pfizer Eligibility

People age 6 months and older can get the vaccine

People who've had an immediate or severe allergic reaction to any of the vaccine's ingredients or after a prior dose of the vaccine and people who are allergic to polysorbate shouldn't get the vaccine

People who've had an immediate allergic reaction to any vaccine or injectable medication should be cautious about getting the vaccine

Moderna Eligibility

People age 6 months and older can get the vaccine

People who've had an immediate or severe allergic reaction to any of the vaccine's ingredients or after a prior dose of the vaccine and people who are allergic to polysorbate shouldn't get the vaccine

People who've had an immediate allergic reaction to any vaccine or injectable medication should be cautious about getting the vaccine

Janssen/Johnson & Johnson Eligibility

People age 18 and older can get the vaccine

People who've had a severe allergic reaction to any of the vaccine's ingredients shouldn't get the vaccine

Novavax Eligibility

People age 12 and older can get the vaccine

People who've had an immediate allergic reaction to any vaccine or injectable medication should be cautious about getting the vaccine

Cost

Pfizer Cost

Free in the U.S.

Moderna Cost

Free in the U.S.

Janssen/Johnson & Johnson Cost

Free in the U.S.

Novavax Cost

Free in the U.S.

Existing health conditions

Pfizer Existing health conditions

You can get a vaccine if you have an existing health condition or if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have existing health conditions, take medications, or you're pregnant, and you have questions about the vaccine, talk to your doctor.

If you have any other questions or concerns about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, talk to your doctor.

Moderna Existing health conditions

You can get a vaccine if you have an existing health condition or if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have existing health conditions, take medications, or you're pregnant, and you have questions about the vaccine, talk to your doctor.

If you have any other questions or concerns about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, talk to your doctor.

Janssen/Johnson & Johnson Existing health conditions

You can get a vaccine if you have an existing health condition or if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have existing health conditions, take medications, or you're pregnant, and you have questions about the vaccine, talk to your doctor.

If you have any other questions or concerns about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, talk to your doctor.

Novavax Existing health conditions

You can get a vaccine if you have an existing health condition or if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have existing health conditions, take medications, or you're pregnant, and you have questions about the vaccine, talk to your doctor.

If you have any other questions or concerns about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, talk to your doctor.

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