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

Prince Charles Secondary School
School District 8 votes in favour of name change for Secondary School in Creston

In an act of reconciliation, a new name will be chosen for Prince Charles Secondary School

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison. Photo courtesy Conservative Party of Canada.
MP Morrison appointed to parliamentary national security committee

Kootenay-Columbia parliamentarian one of five candidates appointed to national security committee

In conjunction with the exhibition, Kimberley Arts at Centre 64 hired local Graffiti artist Jamie Cross to paint a mural that is serving as the backdrop for a public photo booth.
The annual “Artrageous” open art exhibition at Centre 64

Have you stopped in at Centre 64 lately? The gallery has been… Continue reading

The Kimberley Refugee Resettlement Group is active again after a few years off and are working to find a home for Gloria in Kimberley. Photo taken at a KRRG fundraiser several years ago. Bulletin file.
Kimberley Refugee Resettlement Group active once more

KRRG working to find a refugee a safe place to live in Kimberley

The Kimberley Aquatic Centre is set to reopen its doors to the public on July 6, after being shut down due to the pandemic in March, 2020. The Centre will be initially operating with reduced occupancy and limited program offerings. Bulletin file.
Kimberley Aquatic Centre set to re-open July 6

New safety infrastructure, limited guests and programming allow facility to open again

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

For more than a year, Rene Doyharcabal and a small group of neighbours in Langley’s Brookswood neighbourhood have been going out every evening to show support for first responders by honking horns and banging pots and drums. Now, a neighbour has filed a noise complaint. (Langley Advance Times file)
Noise complaint filed against nightly show of support for health care workers in B.C. city

Langley Township contacted group to advise of complaint, but no immediate action is expected

A nurse prepares a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Yukon Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mike Thomas
Vancouver couple pleads guilty to breaking Yukon COVID rules, travelling for vaccine

Chief Judge Michael Cozens agreed with a joint sentencing submission,

An inmate in solitary confinement given lunch on Tuesday, May 10, 2016. THE CANADIAN/Lars Hagberg
22-hour cap on solitary confinement for youth in custody still too long: B.C. lawyer

Jennifer Metcalfe was horrified to hear a youth had spent a total of 78 straight days in isolation

Old growth in the Columbia Valley, in the Kinbasket area. (Photo submitted)
Wildsight: Old-growth forests are being logged in Golden

Wildsight says that Canfor has been logging old growth at the Blaeberry headwaters

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens as Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents the province’s latest budget, April 20, 2021. The budget projects $19 billion in deficits over three years. (Hansard TV)
B.C. government budget balloons, beyond COVID-19 response

Provincial payroll up 104,000 positions, $10 billion since 2017

COVID-related trash is washing up on shorelines across the world, including Coldstream’s Kal Beach, as pictured in this May 2021 photograph. (Jennifer Smith - Black Press)
Shoreline cleanup finds COVID-related trash increased during height of the pandemic

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup reports litter from single-use food packaging nearly doubled

Most Read