Data emerge showing more differences between coronavirus vaccines

Recent data suggests that Moderna's coronavirus vaccine may be more effective than Pfizer's over time.
Why It Matters: The efficacy gap could always go away with more data, and both vaccines remain very effective against serious diseases. If the loophole remains, however, it begs the question of whether the two vaccines should be treated equally politically.
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Driving news: Several studies - both preprints and peer-reviewed ones - have found a difference between the effectiveness of the two vaccines over time, although some experts have warned that this could be due to inaccurate head-to-head comparisons.
The studies have assessed various measures of effectiveness, but all have shown that effectiveness against serious illnesses remains relatively high.
“There was some kind of signal from enough different sources that paint a picture that could reflect a real biological phenomenon - a real difference. I'm starting to think there's something behind this, ”said Natalie Dean, an Emery professor who specializes in vaccine study design.
Enlarge: In a study published last week, the CDC found that Moderna was significantly more effective than the Pfizer or J&J vaccines during hospital stays, emergency rooms, or emergencies.
A second, smaller study found similar anti-hospital efficacy between the two mRNA vaccines.
Between the lines: Pfizer was the first US approved vaccine and was given a few weeks before the Moderna vaccine.
"Because of the way the rollouts went, the oldest and most vulnerable and sickest people, like nursing home residents, got Pfizer," said Cornell virologist John Moore.
This means that it is possible that some of the efficacy gap that has shown in some studies is due to Pfizer being given earlier and in more vulnerable populations.
However, the large CDC study, which found a significant difference in the effectiveness of the vaccines, found that Moderna's was higher in all age groups.
Possible reasons for the difference are that Moderna has a much higher dosage regimen than Pfizer and the second shot is given after a slightly longer interval.
And while the vaccines are both made using mRNA technology, there are structural differences between them.
Yes, but: Both vaccines are nearly the same in their ability "to do what a vaccine must do, which is to protect against serious illness," said Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
The bottom line: The Moderna data may look more like Pfizer's after a long period of time. However, it can be unwise to use one as a proxy for the other.
"It's not clear that every lesson we see from Pfizer translates directly into Moderna," said Dean. "I think if you had asked this question a few months ago, when there really [was] no sign of a difference, people would be very mentally summarizing it."
What We Are Observing: There is a lot more data - especially from other countries like Israel - about Pfizer's declining effectiveness and the effect of booster shots on restoring effectiveness to its original level.
However, if that data doesn't apply to Moderna, regulators may not yet have a lot of data to work with in booster decisions - a process that is already highly controversial.
"We haven't had the real Moderna-specific data about restoring effectiveness and durability for some time," said Eric Topol, executive vice president of Scripps Research.
Topol said there have been signs that Moderna is becoming less effective over time, to some extent. "It can only be longer and it can be less," added Topol.
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