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Breaking down the difference between COVID-19 vaccines

Dr. Gustavo Ferrer, President of Aventura Pulmonary Institute, joins Yahoo Finance's Kristin Myers to discuss the latest coronavirus developments, as the FDA prepares to vote on emergency use of the Moderna vaccine.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: I want to dive into this more now. We're joined by Dr. Gustavo Ferrer, President of Aventura Pulmonary Institute. Doctor, it's always great chatting with you. I guess I just want to start with how you think the vaccine rollout is going so far. Of course, as we anticipate a second vaccine that will hit the market.

GUSTAVO FERRER: Absolutely. We were expecting that we're going to have hiccups along the way, and there are reported issues in some places of the country. But nonetheless, the vaccine is getting to hospitals and places where the people who need the vaccine right now, they may get the vaccine as soon as possible.

KRISTIN MYERS: How efficiently do you think the United States can handle this rollout once it moves past frontline workers like doctors, and some folks in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and it really starts to hit the general population?

GUSTAVO FERRER: Yeah, I believe that we're going to be facing two faces. Number one is going to be the distribution, it looks like the government is reporting that they have that well organized with systems, the vaccine will be available for those that need it as soon as possible. The second issue is the issue of skepticism in relationship to vaccine, which requires a constant campaign of discussion, and education, and transparency from the health care system and the pharmaceutical companies that have built this vaccine, so that we can help people understand what truly the vaccine does, and how does it help, and what they're going to be expecting about the vaccine.

One of the issues that I get year after year with the influenza vaccine is the patients come to me and say, hey, I got the vaccine but I had the infections after that. And I have to clarify them that the influenza vaccine, just as COVID-19 will, what we have as evidence is that actually decreases the severity of the illness, but we don't have a strong evidence that prevents the infection.

KRISTIN MYERS: I'm wondering if you can talk to us a little bit more about the difference between these two vaccines. We have Pfizer, we have Moderna, they seem to be pretty neck and neck when it comes to efficacy, at least. And I know there's differences, you know, about the temperatures that that they could be kept at, but for anyone at home that doesn't really know too much about those two, what are those differences?

GUSTAVO FERRER: Yeah, they are pretty similar. Mechanistically, both of them, they were created by something that we call messenger RNA from the virus. The main difference between the two is that the Pfizer vaccine, you get a second boost of the vaccine. The second dose is at day 21, three weeks, then Moderna you're going to get at a day 28. It's about a week difference between the two of them.

The other difference is that Pfizer was approved to be given to people 16 years and older, then Moderna actually is 18 and older. And all that is based on the number of patients that they were able to recruit to have those claims included in there.

But one that is actually very, very important that I think the FDA is going to be weighing into that today, is that the Moderna vaccine, you don't have to keep it in that temperature that Pfizer requires. That has to be minus 7 degrees, which is extremely difficult to carry out. So it's going to be easier to handle and to maneuver the Moderna vaccine.

KRISTIN MYERS: Doctor, I know you were touching on it just a moment ago. I kind of want to circle back to what you were saying about how the vaccine actually works, because I feel like I've heard a lot of questions. I have a lot of questions myself about whether it's actually, you know, does it stop you from spreading the virus? Does it make you immune to the virus if you get this vaccine, or is it operating kind of like some folks say the flu shot operates, which is you might still get the flu but it won't be as bad and it won't last as long?

GUSTAVO FERRER: I think that is a fantastic question. If we look through the media, this has been circulating in the last few days, and we see that even our own office and center's patients are coming back to ask, asking those questions. The reality is that the vaccine that was made in record time, what it shows, what they can claim is that decreases the severity of the disease, meaning you can get the infection but you're not going to end up in the ICU and you're not going to have an increased chance of mortality or dying from the virus. And that is the protection that we're talking about with the efficacy of 90 plus percent.

Now, it is not entirely 100% protective, I clarify that to my patients and people all the time, and we haven't seen any of those viral vaccines for a respiratory illness that can be 100%. Now, the main difference is that there is a chance that you can get-- the vaccine Pfizer announced in the preliminary data that they saw that when they swap patients before and after the vaccine, in the control group they have less patients carrying the virus at the end of the trial. That has to be determined in the long run, and they have promised to display that data in January or later on in February, that we can see if it truly is one of those vaccines that can actually, truly prevent the entire infection. It does decrease the severity of the illness, but it does not eliminate the infectious process.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right. Dr. Gustavo Ferrer, President of Aventura Pulmonary Institute. Doctor, thank you so much for joining us as always.

GUSTAVO FERRER: Thank you for having me.