A vial containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a vaccination site in Marcq en Baroeul, outside Lille, northern France,Saturday, March 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michel Spingler

A vial containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a vaccination site in Marcq en Baroeul, outside Lille, northern France,Saturday, March 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michel Spingler

Moderna misconceptions: Experts say some assume superiority of Pfizer COVID vaccine

So why have some people turned away from Moderna? Maybe brand awareness

Kelly Grindrod was confused when she first heard of people leaving COVID-19 vaccine clinics once they realized they’d be getting the Moderna jab — a surprising turn that experts say suggests some Canadians are mistaking the product as inferior to its Pfizer-BioNTech counterpart.

Grindrod, a researcher and pharmacy professor at the University of Waterloo, says one clinic in her southwestern Ontario region reported around 50 walk-outs while other nearby sites saw daily instances of people refusing the Moderna shot, despite its similar effectiveness to Pfizer.

Walkout numbers decreased, she says, after clinics placed medical professionals at entrances to clarify the similarities between the two vaccines.

“At first it was like, ‘What is happening?’” Grindrod says.

“Now they’re getting a bit better explaining to people: ‘Look, it’s the same (type of vaccine as Pfizer).”

In clinical trials, Moderna showed 94.1 per cent efficacy in preventing COVID-19 two weeks after a second dose, comparable to Pfizer’s 95 per cent. Both trials saw zero hospitalizations and deaths in those who did get COVID-19 after being vaccinated.

Side effects from each of the mRNA vaccines have also been similar, Grindrod says, with neither producing more adverse events than the other.

So why have some people turned away from Moderna?

Grindrod expects it has to do with brand awareness.

Pfizer is a more recognizable name, she says, mostly because of its success marketing previous products including Viagara. But Moderna, a 10-year-old biotech company, is less well-known to Canadians, despite having serious star power in an investment from country superstarDolly Parton.

Grindrod says Moderna’s vaccine, which was co-developed by a young Black scientist named Kizzmekia Corbett, has “a really great story.”

But Moderna’s profile has been overshadowed recently by news from other vaccines, including safety concerns around theOxford-AstraZeneca product.

“People had a scare with (blood clots associated with) AstraZeneca and now they’re connecting safety with a name they recognize,” Grindrod says. “They were able to get comfortable with Pfizer, so it throws them for a loop if they show up (to a vaccine clinic) and it’s Moderna.”

Alberta has also experienced some Moderna walkouts, with infectious disease expert Dr. Lynora Saxinger saying by email that she’s heard that complaint from pharmacists and vaccine clinics there.

Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist in Mississauga, has heard the same happening in the Greater Toronto Area.

However, a provincial spokesperson in Manitoba said there were “no reports” of people leaving vaccine sites because of the type of jab offered, while Vancouver Coastal Health, a network of hospitals and clinics in B.C., said uptake of both mRNA vaccines has been high in that area.

Science communicator Samantha Yammine, who has a large social media following, has received “a lot” of questions recently from people unsure about Moderna.

She expects that’s because people hear so much more about Pfizer, with real-world data and studies emerging from countries that have relied more heavily on that vaccine.

“The more you hear about something, the more familiar it becomes,” Yammine says.

Doses of Moderna have accounted for less than 22 per cent of Canada’s deliveries to date — 5.5 million compared to more than 17 million from Pfizer. And there have been issues with unsteady supply from the company, which last month slashed expected deliveries to Canada in half.

Grindrod says that’s to be expected with a smaller business that doesn’t have the delivery logistics of a giant like Pfizer. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau referred to Pfizer this week as the “reliable workhorse” of Canada’s rollout.

Andrea Benoit, a media and branding researcher, says comments like those from public officials can inadvertently make Moderna’s vaccine appear less reliable.

“One of the key aspects of meaning-making is (defining) something by what it’s not,” she says.

While neither company has advertised its jab in a conventional sense, Benoit says the mRNA products seem to have taken on a “Coke vs. Pepsi”-type rivalry that dismisses the similar effectiveness and science behind them.

Social media has played some role, Benoit says. As people post vaccine selfies with captions exclaiming which vaccine they got, they cement themselves as Team Pfizer or Team Moderna.

The prevalence of Pfizer in Canada makes that divide much more one-sided, however. And Yammine says we should be wary of that “familiarity bias.”

“Pfizer becomes more comfortable because you know more people who’ve gotten it,” she says. “But … that has everything to do with our supply and nothing to do with the actual quality of the vaccine.

“Moderna and Pfizer are very similar and they’re both amazing.”

Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirusvaccines

Just Posted

Penticton Overdose Prevention Society co-founders Desiree Franz, Shane Surowski and Stephanie Lines have created the city’s first unsanctioned public overdose prevention site using an old wine-tour bus. The site began operations in June 2021. (Desiree Franz/Facebook)
Volunteers launch Penticton’s first public supervised injection site

2021 is on pace to be the deadliest year for overdoses in Penticton on record

Owner Daren McWhinney is really excited about the new location of Angry Vegan which just opened up at 536 Main Street. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton’s Main Street turns into foodie heaven

Angry Vegan, Wild Ginger, Twisted Chopsticks and Gratify recently opened

Four golfers from Fairview Mountain Golf Club in Oliver will golf from sunrise to sunset to raise funds for ALS on June 29. (Submitted)
Golfing from sunrise to sunset in Oliver for ALS

Four golfers from Fairview Mountain Golf Club have taken up the challenge June 29

Jann Arden will embark on Canada-wide tour Spring 2022 with a stop in Penticton at the South Okanagan Events Centre on June 13. (Contributed)
Jann Arden coming to Penticton in 2022

The Jann Arden Live! tour has been rescheduled for 2022

A storm watch has been issued for the Okanagan, Kootenays and Columbia regions of B.C. (Calvin Dickson photo)
Another severe thunderstorm watch issued for the Okanagan

Conditions are favourable for thunderstorms that may produce strong wind gusts, hail and heavy rain

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop live horse export

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

(Dave Ogilvie photo)
One injured after being pinned by fallen forklift near Peachland

West Kelowna emergency crews responded to reports of a person stuck under a forklift

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

This goose family went for a leisurely stroll down Vernon’s Main Street Saturday, April 25. (Dave Deshane photo)
Controversial Vernon goose cull won’t fly this year

Necessary permit procedures held up at a federal level

Mounties cover a burgundy truck with a tent at Buckerfields in West Kelowna on Monday, June 14. The RCMP is investigating after a woman’s body was found inside the truck. (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News)
West Kelowna RCMP investigating suspicious death after body found in truck

Police responded to a truck parked out front of a Main Street business where the body was found

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Most Read