The vaccine received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Friday night. The expected amount of 4,300 doses arrived at the medical center this morning.
This is the second vaccine UC Davis Health has received in as many weeks. Last Tuesday (12/15), 4,875 doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine arrived. The medical center has already vaccinated more than 4,000 employees with an initial dose of the Pfizer two-shot regimen and expects to use up its initial allotment within the next day or so. “When that happens, we expect to begin vaccinating employees with the Moderna vaccine,” said Chad Hatfield, Chief Pharmacy Officer.
Here are 10 things to know about the Moderna vaccine.
1. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine uses mRNA
Just like the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Moderna’s uses mRNA, or messenger ribonucleic acid. The mRNA delivers instructions to your body about how to make the spike protein that’s on the coronavirus. That causes your body to create antibodies, preparing your immune system to defeat COVID-19 if you’re exposed to it in the future. You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. Read about common COVID vaccine myths.
2. It requires two shots
The Moderna vaccine requires a two-shot regimen, as does Pfizer. In Moderna’s case, the second shot should be 28 days later. With Pfizer, the second shot should be 21 days later.
3. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are for slightly different age groups
Moderna’s vaccine is approved for emergency use for those 18 and older. Pfizer’s is approved for those 16 and older.
4. Moderna’s vaccine is stored a little differently
This is one of the major differences between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Moderna’s doses can be stored in a more common freezer, around -15 degrees Celsius. Pfizer’s requires ultra-cold storage at -80 Celsius.
“One key point about the Moderna product is that we can use regular freezers, which we have a number of on campus,” said Hatfield. “Also, when we start to look into vaccinating folks who are further away – perhaps in rural areas of the Central Valley – Moderna’s will have a transportation and storage advantage.”
5. It can stay in the fridge longer, too
The Moderna vaccine can stay in the refrigerator for 30 days after it’s been thawed. Pfizer’s can stay in the fridge for five days after it’s been thawed.
6. It doesn’t matter whether you get Pfizer or Moderna
The Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective against COVID, Moderna’s vaccine is 94.1% effective. “I don’t see any real difference between the two, from what I’ve seen so far, in terms of safety and efficacy,” said Hatfield.
One important note: There’s no mixing of the two. If you get an initial dose of the Pfizer, your second dose should be Pfizer; same goes for Moderna.
Both vaccines were tested in large clinical trials. Pfizer’s included more than 40,000 participants at 150 sites, including UC Davis Health. Moderna’s included more than 30,000 participants.
7. The side effects are similar
Though some people had no side effects at all, others experienced injection-site pain, fatigue, headache, chills and body aches. The side effects reported were similar with both vaccines. These are signs that the body’s immune system is working to prepare for a future encounter with COVID-19.
8. UC Davis Health continues to vaccinate employees most at risk of COVID-19 exposure
Emergency department employees were the first group to be inoculated. They include staff who clean rooms, food service workers, reception staff and those who provide direct patient care such as doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists. Now, some other hospital-based employees and medical students are also getting their shots.
UC Davis Health developed priority tiers to ensure the vaccine is distributed equitably among employees who wish to be inoculated. They’re based on the risk of COVID-19 infection while on the job. The health system expects to inoculate about 400 employees a day, and eventually, as many as 1,000 as other vaccines become available. We expect to be able to start offering the vaccine to the general public in the spring.
9. UC Davis Medical Center can store a LOT of vaccines
Hatfield says we can store 200,000 or more Moderna doses in existing freezers, by moving a few things around. As we receive more ultra-cold freezers, we should be able to store up to 400,000 Pfizer doses at one time.
10. We expect to keep getting more – of both vaccines
Though the numbers may shift in terms of what each shipment will contain, The California Department of Public Health has assured us the vaccines will arrive on a consistent basis in order for us to continue inoculations.
Hatfield notes that other vaccine products are in the pipeline as well. “I don’t think these will be the last ones to come to market.”
“There’s very few times in our history that we’ve been able to mount this type of response, in what’s really a worldwide vaccination,” he noted. For pharmacy folks, we bring in drugs all the time, we move things around, deal with shortages and from a logistics perspective, this is what we do. But from a larger perspective, it’s monumental. It’s pretty cool to be a part of history, to be a part of this vaccination,” said Hatfield.