A unique comparison of Johnson & Johnson vaccine vs Moderna and Pfizer

Posted at 3:58 PM, Mar 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-02 17:58:07-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — With the addition of Johnson & Johnson there are now three COVID vaccines available.

There are differences between the three, which could have some people waiting for one vaccine over another. A local doctor, familiar with both types of vaccines, says don't wait.

"I would say get whatever you can get," said Dr. Jack McGettigan, owner of Quality of Life Medical & Research Center in Tucson.

Dr. McGettigan has a unique perspective on the COVID vaccine. He has headed up the Tucson portion of both the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson clinical trials. He also has personal experience with the vaccines.

"I've got a daughter who's had Pfizer," Dr. McGettigan explained. "I've had Moderna and my Dad's had the Johnson & Johnson. I think right now, get what you can get."

There are similarities between the vaccines. All three are effective against the virus.

"The data right now on all of them is showing it protects you from getting a serious illness," McGettigan said. "Which I think is the key for most of us."

None of the vaccines use a "live" virus, although Johnson & Johnson's is more conventional.

"It is more of the old-style of developing a vaccine," McGettigan explained. "The mRNA is a whole new technology."

Both the Pfizer and Moderna use the new mRNA technology.

During the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson phase 3 trials at his Quality of Life, Dr. McGettigan says volunteers reported similar side effects.

They happen to be the same side effects I experienced as part of the Modern a trial. I had arm soreness, some aches and fatigue.

Pat Parris receives the second COVID vaccine injection in Moderna phase 3 trial.

While Moderna and Pfizer require two doses several weeks apart, Johnson & Johnson has a big advantage with just a single shot.

"And it makes it easier to obviously immunize more people," said Dr. McGettigan.

The biggest disadvantage, and why some are hesitant to take the Johnson & Johnson, gets back to efficacy.

While Pfizer and Moderna are around 95% effective, Johnson & Johnson's vaccine is 72% effective at preventing all COVID-19 and 86% effective at preventing severe cases of the disease.

"Maybe they'll recommend the booster on the single dose down the road, just to boost efficacy," Dr. McGettigan said. "I think that maybe is why that they're looking at a different study we're doing now that's looking at that."

Dr. McGettigan and Quality of Life are currently enrolling volunteers in a two-shot trial of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.