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In-Depth: Limited COVID-19 vaccine supply means you can't currently choose which shot you get

Posted at 5:47 PM, Feb 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-04 20:47:55-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV)- After being isolated for nearly a year, 73-year-old Carlsbad resident Betty Stevens is thrilled to have had her first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“I’ve been isolating since March 13th of last year; I even have groceries delivered,” said Stevens. “I have enough health issues that I don’t want to get COVID.”

Getting the vaccine means she’s inching closer to seeing her family again.

“I’m going to have some great hugs,” said Stevens. “I’ll get to see my grandchildren, and then I’ll get to see my great-grandchildren who are babies, and I’m so excited.”

Moderna or Pfizer, Stevens didn’t care which shot she got at the Petco Park Vaccination super station, as long as she would be protected.

“As you’re pulling in and getting ready to get an injection, they said, ‘Oh, you’ll be getting the Moderna,’ and I said, ‘that’s great.’ The Moderna is just as good as the Pfizer.”

Some people might prefer one vaccine over the other, but can you choose which one you get? Right now, the answer is no.

“We don’t really get a choice as to what’s available, so we use what’s available,” said Dr. David Pride, Director of the Molecular Microbiology laboratory at UC San Diego Health.

Some healthcare providers do let patients know which shot they will get when they’re scheduling online, but according to a spokesperson for the County of San Diego, the county’s vaccination sites are not vaccine exclusive.
People find out which vaccine is offered at the time when they arrive for their appointment. They are asked to consent to receive the vaccine, and of course, have the option to decline.

Pride said just getting a shot right now is more important than having a choice between Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines.

He said supplies are still limited across the county, and the two types don’t differ much.

“Both of the vaccines work in highly similar ways,” he said. “When people talk to me and say ‘I’m going to wait for this vaccine, or I’m going to wait for that vaccine,’ I usually just tell them ‘don’t.’”

“I think there’s sort of a lot of rumors here and there, and it’s very easy whether it’s on Facebook or word of mouth, say you hear a friend of yours got the Pfizer and had some side effects, and you sort of say to yourself ‘I’m not going to get the Pfizer, I’m going to get the Moderna.’ I think every institution in the county is going through the same problems, and that is that we’re lucky to get the vaccine that we get,” said Pride.

ABC 10News heard from viewers who had some side effects, like a sore arm, headache, or high temperature, from both shots, and Pride said that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“Your body is recognizing the sort of foreign material, and it’s starting to build a robust immune response against it, so some of these side effects you can take as a good sign,” said Pride.

Eventually, people might be able to choose which vaccine they want as more options and quantities become available, but right now, Pride said the goal is to vaccinate as many people as possible.

“Have patience, remain vigilant, continue your masking and social distancing. These vaccinations will be coming shortly, so just don’t lose hope,” said Pride.

As for Stevens, her second dose at Petco Park is scheduled for Feb. 15, which could be the start to eventually getting her life back to what it was before this pandemic.

“I’m excited, and I’ll let you know when I’ll get to see my grandkids, yay! I’ll keep wearing my mask, but I’m going to be with them a little bit more,” said Stevens.