Thinking Citizen Blog — Three Vaccines Compared: Pfizer, Moderna, Astrazeneca

John Muresianu
3 min readJan 7, 2021

Thinking Citizen Blog — Thursday is Health, Health Care and Global Health Policy Day

Today’s Topic: Three Vaccines Compared: Pfizer, Moderna, Astrazeneca

Mirror, mirror, on the wall which is the best vaccine of them all? If you had a choice, which would you pick? As a patient? As the minister of health of a country? As the health commissioner of a state? Which criteria matter most? In what order? How about efficacy, storage, availability, cost? Other? Would you cut the dosage in half to vaccinate more people? Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

THE ASTRAZENECA VACCINE — the knock is the relatively low efficacy

1. “The vaccine is cheaper and easier to distribute than the Pfizer-BioNTech alternative but its efficacy results, although still high, aren’t so straightforward.”

2. “Interim data published in the Lancet earlier this month gave the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine an overall efficacy of 70.4%. This is lower than the 95% efficacy offerred by the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, but it’s still remarkable compared to the seasonal flu shot. Although efficacy varies year to years, studies show the shot reduces the risk of flue illness by around 40% and 60% across the whole population.”

3. “One complication with the Astra-Zeneca figure is the fact it reflects data from two different dosing regimens. Trials showed two full does of the vaccine provided 62% efficacy, while a lower dose followed by a full dose appeared to provide 90% efficacy.”

NB: “Although that second figure is higher, it comes from a much smaller group of participants. While 4,400 volunteers received two full doses of the vaccine, only 1,367 volunteers were given the low dose followed by the full dose.”

THE MODERNA VACCINE — higher cost, shorter shelf life, lowest production capacity

1. Production Capacity: 500–1 billion doses in 2021 versus 3 billion for Astrazeneca and 1.3 billion for Pfizer.

2. Shelf life: 1 month in a standard refrigerator versus 6 months for Astrazeneca and 5 days for Pfizer.

3. Cost: $20 versus $4 for Astrazeneca. Pfizer is also $20.

THE PFIZER VACCINE — shortest shelf life, highest efficacy, higher cost

1. Efficacy: 95% versus 94.1% for Moderna and 70% for Astrazeneca. How meaningful are these differentials?

2. Shelf life: 5 days is not very long. Now in a dry ice freezer, the vaccine could last for 30 days, and an ultra-cold freezer up to 6 months. How relevant are these numbers?

3. Production capacity: 1.3 billion — so much lower than Astrazeneca’s and the cost is 5X higher.

U.K. Authorizes Covid-19 Vaccine From Oxford and AstraZeneca

Three COVID Vaccines Compared

A side-by-side comparison of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines

How the Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaccine Works


COVID-19 vaccine


Feds may cut Moderna vaccine doses in half so more people get shots, Warp Speed adviser says


For the last three years of posts organized by theme:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive


Please share the most interesting thing you learned in the last week related to health, health care or health care policy — the ethics, economics, politics, history…. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to health are or health care policy that the rest of us may have missed. Or just some random health-related fact that blew you away.

This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your mind something really important.



John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.