Choices in a Crisis — Individual Preferences Among SARS-CoV-2 Vaccines

(This op-ed was first published in The New England Journal of Medicine on March 3, 2021.)

The extraordinarily swift development of effective vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 offers new optimism about combating the Covid-19 pandemic. So far, vaccine demand far exceeds supply, and people generally cannot choose which vaccine they receive. In the United States, this lack of choice has generated little debate given the similar mechanism of action, number of required doses, safety profile, and efficacy of the two vaccines approved in December 2020, both based on mRNA technology. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now granted emergency use authorization (EUA) for a third vaccine and may consider additional vaccines for EUA. As real-world experience with vaccination accumulates, meaningful differences in effectiveness against new SARS-CoV-2 variants and adverse reaction rates may emerge, along with new information about relative effectiveness in preventing transmission. Thus, the question of whether individual vaccinees should be able to choose which vaccine they receive will become increasingly salient.

(Continue reading the op-ed on NEJM’s page here.)