With 3 COVID Vaccines Approved, Is There a ‘Best’ Shot?

flu vaccineAmericans love to have choices, and now there are three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States.

But infectious disease experts say that all three protect strongly against severe COVID-19, so there is only one criteria to use in deciding which vaccine is the best.

“There is a single best vaccine. It’s the one that’s available to you today,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of infectious disease with the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. “Roll up your sleeve. Get it.”

The two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were the first to be included in the nation’s vaccine rollout, with the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine just approved by federal regulators last weekend.

But some have questioned whether the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine is a “second-best” vaccine, comparing how it performed in clinical trials versus the two-dose messenger RNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer.

Two doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were about 95% effective against cases of symptomatic COVID-19. A single shot of the J&J vaccine had a total effectiveness of about 66% against moderate to severe COVID-19 cases.

However, all three vaccines offer strong protection against the most serious and life-threatening effects of COVID-19, the symptoms that cause people to die or require mechanical ventilation and treatment in an intensive care unit, said Dr. Greg Poland, founder of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minn.

“If we take death and hospitalization [into account], all three vaccines are essentially equal and as close to 100% as we can measure,” Poland said.

“If you say to me, ‘Doc, what I really care about is I do not want my wife to die of this, I don’t want her to have a severe illness, I don’t want her hospitalized, I do not want her on a ventilator’ — I would say you are in luck,” Poland continued. “Pick any one of the three and it’s basically 100%.”

Schaffner added, “If you’re trying to distinguish between these vaccines, it’s like asking was Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig the better ball player. You want to compare their batting averages? Give me a break. They’re all great.”

J&J vaccine not ‘next-best’ choice