Doctors break down COVID-19 vaccine differences

First responder vaccinations
Posted at 4:45 PM, Dec 29, 2020

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — More than 70,000 Ohioans have started the COVID-19 vaccination process. The two vaccines available right now, from Pfizer and Moderna, are a two-shot regimen. There is a three-week waiting period between the first and second shots.

"It looks like the immunity really develops over several weeks after the first vaccination, but it doesn't really gain its full strength until a couple of weeks after the second vaccination," Dr. Daniel Culver said. Culver is a Pulmonologist with the Cleveland Clinic.

It was the first round of the highly touted Moderna vaccine given to first responders at the Independence Fire Department on this day.

"It's vitally important that we get this vaccine at this time," said Steve Rega, the Fire Chief in the department. "Just like all the medical workers in the hospitals and nursing homes, our firefighters are on the front lines of this every day."

This distribution was open for first responders across Cuyahoga County. Rega got his first shot.

"It feels fine. I didn't even feel a thing. They did a nice job with it," he said.

The Moderna vaccine arrived in the fire station in cold boxes. Each small glass bottle held 10 doses of the virus fighter.

"We were hoping that we would get to perhaps 70% protection but this is beyond our wildest dreams and Madonna was 94.1%," Dr. Robert Salata said about the efficacy of the Moderna vaccine. That number is from the clinical trial and nearly matched that from the Pfizer vaccine trials. The Pfizer version of the vaccine was the first regimen available in the United States and it had a 95% efficacy rate during trials.

Both vaccines target the spike protein in COVID-19.

"And when you see pictures of the coronavirus, and those projections off from the surface. That's the spike protein," Salata said. He is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at University Hospitals.

These are the two vaccines talked about often and available now for certain groups in Ohio but there are more going through the process.

"In a similar fashion, Johnson and Johnson is conducting their trial with over 60,000 individuals," Salata said.

Another vaccine is a partnership between Astra Zeneca and the University of Oxford.

"And this is different in that it is a chimpanzee adenovirus and adenovirus are one that generally in humans and chimpanzees can cause cold," Salata said.

In trials, that vaccine is about 70% effective.

"So some have said if you have a choice between a vaccine that is associated with the 95% protection right and one that's only 70% effective -- you make your choice," Salata said.

But a choice may not be available. As the first responders in the drive-thru vaccination clinic in Independence, it was the Moderna vaccine or no vaccine on Tuesday. However, medical professionals encourage people to get vaccines when they can.

"So, even after vaccination, we're not done with masks. We're not done with social distancing," Culver said. "And until we get widespread vaccination, it is crucially important that we continue to keep our foot on the gas pedal with all of the public health measures that have been advocated over the past 10 months -- mask-wearing, social distancing (and) limiting large gatherings."

At this point, vaccines in Ohio are being rolled out to different groups labeled as high risk or front-line workers. Cuyahoga County Board of Health officials could not say when the vaccines would be available to the public.