For all the debate about which COVID-19 vaccine is more effective, ultimately the answer is still “all of them.”
New Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows that all three of the available vaccines in the U.S. continue to offer substantial protection against serious disease and death from COVID-19.
In August, the most recent full month for which data is available, unvaccinated people were more than 6 times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 than their fully vaccinated peers were ― and more than 11 times more likely to die from it, as illustrated by the chart below.
When comparing the efficacy of individual vaccines, Moderna’s, Pfizer’s and Johnson & Johnson’s products all remain quite effective at preventing both cases and death from COVID-19.
While Moderna’s vaccine was slightly more effective than Pfizer’s, and Pfizer’s was slightly more effective than Johnson & Johnson’s, the data shows all of the products continue to offer clear protection.
The graph below shows positive COVID-19 cases broken down by both vaccination status and product. The clear takeaway: Vaccines work.
Notably, people who recovered from COVID-19 and therefore likely have some level of natural immunity are considered unvaccinated by the CDC. Studies show unvaccinated COVID-19 survivors are more than twice as likely to be reinfected by the virus than those who are fully vaccinated.
The data provides a relevant backdrop for high-level discussions about the need for booster shots, and who should get them.
A Food and Drug Administration committee is meeting Friday to discuss whether to authorize Johnson & Johnson boosters, having already endorsed both Pfizer and Moderna boosters for certain high-risk populations.
In August, the head of the World Health Organization condemned plans to widely distribute booster shots in wealthy countries, calling for a moratorium. The shots would yield a far greater return if they were administered as first and second doses in developing nations, where new variants are more likely to emerge as the virus circulates more widely, the WHO said.
“As we’ve seen from the emergence of variant after variant, we cannot get out of it unless the whole world gets out of it together,” said Dr. Bruce Aylward, a WHO special adviser. “And with the huge disparity in vaccination coverage, we’re simply not going to be able to achieve that.”