Cut Through The Chatter: Differences in the vaccines

Mar 30, 2021


Cut Through The Chatter is a special Living Smart series for those who may be hesitant to take or have questions about the COVID vaccine - especially those in the African-American and Latino communities who have been disproportionately affected by the disease or have a mistrust of vaccines. We want to share some facts to address those common concerns.

All of the approved vaccines for COVID-19 in the United States are safe and highly effective in protecting people from becoming severely ill or dying from the disease. You are unlikely to get to choose which vaccine you receive due to availability, but be assured that all will protect you against COVID-19.

Let's take a look at the three vaccinations currently available in the United States.

The different types explained

mRNA: The Pfizer and Moderna shots are messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines, which send instructions to our cells that teach our immune system how to fight the coronavirus. An mRNA vaccine does not actually contain the virus itself. 

mRNA vaccines are like remote learning. The teacher sends the students information about a specific topic electronically by email and virtual meetings. The student then takes that information from the teacher to complete assignments and demonstrate knowledge about that topic. 

Viral Vector: The Johnson & Johnson shot is a viral vector vaccine. These vaccines use an adenovirus (the type of virus that causes the common cold) that has been made safe. Material from the COVID-19 virus is inserted inside of it. The material tells our cells how to make harmless proteins unique to the virus to teach our bodies how to identify and fight the coronavirus. It does not cause you to get COVID-19. 

It’s like being at a car race where there are two 1969 Dodge Chargers sitting next to each other. From the outside they both look like cars direct from the factory. Once the race begins, one car leaves the other in the dust. Why is that? If you pop the hood, one has the original, decades-old factory parts. The other has a modern engine with computerized features and nitrous-oxide that makes the car faster than the original could ever be. This modern car is like a viral vector vaccine.


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