Let’s talk about the different COVID vaccines

Health care workers answer questions about the COVID-19 vaccines.


Stephaun Wallace, PhD, MS and Lisa Fitzpatrick, MD, MPH explain how safe and effective the currently available COVID vaccines are in the United States.


As of March 2021, we have three COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized by the FDA for emergency use. Those include the Moderna vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine, and the J and J or Janssen vaccine.

The questions I’m hearing from the Black community about the Johnson and Johnson vaccines is, “Does it work as well as the other vaccines?” And the second most common question is, “Which one would you get?”

They all basically do the same thing. They’re all really, really good at preventing people from getting seriously sick that would result in them, you know, ending up in the hospital or dying.

One of the things that’s confusing about comparing the J and J vaccine to the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines is that people are comparing these numbers, the efficacy. For the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, the number is around 72%, compared to 94 and 95% for the other vaccines.

Efficacy refers to the degree in which the intervention works in a study. You know, in a study it’s called efficacy, but in a real world application, it would be called effectiveness.

So if you compare the raw numbers, 72 versus 94 I know it doesn’t sound, it doesn’t sound great for J and J that it’s 72 versus 94. The truth, is trying to compare them, is like comparing apples and oranges. It’s actually not a fair comparison. And the reason is because the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was tested when we had the mutations versus the other two vaccines. They weren’t tested against the mutations.

Considering all three vaccines, the similarities being that they all work really well to prevent serious illness leading to hospitalizations and deaths.

Our biggest concern should be whether or not we are saving lives. Are people dying? Are people being hospitalized? All of these vaccines are preventing deaths.

If I had a choice between them, I would probably take the J and J vaccine.

I would choose it because it’s only one shot. And the vaccine is just as good.

I’m not a person who enjoys being shot or given an injection, so, if I can get a vaccine that only has one shot, you know, that works for me.

Get whichever vaccine is available to you first. If you’re offered the Pfizer, take it. If you’re offered the Moderna, take it. If you’re offered the J and J, take it. It’s been a long road and vaccinations will help us get there.

This information is shared for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. The views expressed are those of the featured medical professional and reflect information available to that professional at time of filming. Always consult a health care provider for any personal health decisions. Click here for vaccine FAQs from the CDC.

Find COVID-19 Vaccines Near You!

COVID-19 vaccines are available FREE to everyone ages 12 and older in the U.S. regardless of insurance or immigration status.

Use Vaccines.gov to find a location near you.