Why people in western Norway are turning down Moderna Covid-19 vaccines

Why people in western Norway are turning down Moderna Covid-19 vaccines
A patient receiving a Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP
Up to 10,000 doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine could go to waste in Bergen due to residents preferring Pfizer jabs. 

Bergen Municipality has until the end of September to find takers for around 10,000 Moderna doses that have been thawed and will expire at the end of the month. 

Local authorities in the coastal city are struggling to use up the jabs because locals seemingly prefer Pfizer doses, which they believe lead to fewer flu-like side effects than Moderna.

“We try to argue objectively that Moderna is as good a vaccine as Pfizer, but there are some who decided in advance that this wasn’t the case,” Kjell Haug, assistant chief epidemiologist at Bergen Municipality, told local newspaper Bergens Tidende

This has been an ongoing issue for authorities in Bergen since July, when they began receiving more Moderna shipments than Pfizer.

Haug has said that the municipality is working on ways to stop the unwanted jabs from being thrown away. 

Does Moderna lead to more flu-like side effects than Pfizer?

Is there any factual or scientific basis for people turning down Moderna jabs? 

Firstly, it’s worth prefacing this question by noting that both vaccines effectively prevent people from developing severe disease with Covid-19 and the probability of serious side effects developing is low.  

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health states that it hasn’t seen any scientifically backed evidence of people suffering more intense flu-like symptoms after receiving a Moderna jab than a Pfizer one, but hasn’t ruled out the possibility. 

“We have not seen published results that confirm this, but it is not unreasonable that Moderna causes a somewhat stronger immune response,” Gier Bukholm, infection control director at the NIPH, told VG in an article examining the differences between Moderna and Pfizer in August.

Bukholm has suggested that Moderna’s vaccine may cause stronger reactions in people who receive it because it contains more RNA particles than Pfizer’s serum. RNA is a molecule similar to DNA used in Pfizer’s and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine technology to trigger an immune response.

This, Bukholm said, triggers a more robust immune response in people who receive Moderna, which may lead to more people suffering from flu like symptoms afterwards. 

“One can speculate whether the differences between the vaccines that make one give a slightly higher immune response can also contribute to the same vaccine giving a little more experience of side effects right after the vaccination,” Bukholm explained. 

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