Quick Guide to the Oxford-AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Sputnik V Vaccines

If you go to any COVID-19 vaccination site currently, you’ll receive one of two options: the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or the Moderna vaccine. But there are three other vaccines, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Sputnik V, that may join the mix soon. 

Below, our pharmacists bring you up to date on what’s happening with these 3 vaccines, including how they compare to the current ones available. 

The Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaccine

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was created through a partnership between the University of Oxford and the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca, a major biopharmaceutical company. Currently, the United Kingdom, India, and several other countries have obtained emergency use authorization to administer the vaccine. 

How well it works

After combining the data from four clinical trials, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been shown to have 76% efficacy after just the first dose, and efficacy increased to 82% after a second dose given 12 weeks later. The trials not only found the vaccine to be effective at preventing COVID-19, but they also found that patients did not have any severe cases or hospitalizations 22 days after their first dose. 

Who can get it

The vaccine is currently approved for adults aged 18 years and older.. There is currently some conflicting information on whether or not it is efficacious for those age 65 and older. Although AstraZeneca says that their clinical trials support efficacy for people aged 65 years and older, only 10% of participants in the vaccine clinical trials were older than 65, leading some countries like Germany to limit vaccination use to the ages 18-64. 

Additionally, the trial excluded patients who were pregnant women, those with a current diagnosis of cancer, those with chronic medical conditions such as chronic lung disease, chronic liver disease, chronic renal failure, chronic heart disease, and congenital genetic syndromes. The trial excluded all patients who are immunocompromised; however, they studied a group of participants who are currently diagnosed with HIV. Safety of this vaccine on HIV patients has not been released yet.  

How the science works

Whereas the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines both use mRNA technology (read more here), the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine uses a more traditional method, and uses a viral vector. To make this vaccine, the scientists isolated a harmless and inactivated common cold virus (adenovirus) from chimpanzees, altered it to include the COVID-19 spike protein. This altered virus does not have the ability to replicate inside humans, and will not make you sick. However, just like other vaccines, it causes your immune system to make antibodies to work against the COVID-19 virus, so that your body can respond once it is infected.

Currently, the United Kingdom, India, and several other countries have obtained emergency u

Since the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines use mRNA technology, they need to be distributed in specific freezing temperatures. However, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is stored in a normal refrigerated temperature, which will make the logistics of shipping and rolling out the vaccine easier. 


The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is administered as a two-dose series. In studies, the second dose was given 4 to 12 weeks after the first dose. They found that extending the dosing interval may potentially boost the vaccine’s overall efficacy.  

The Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was developed by Johnson & Johnson, a major healthcare company that has been around for more than 130 years. Their vaccine is expected to potentially be approved in the U.S. later this month. What makes this vaccine different from all of the others is that it is a single-dose vaccine that does not require a booster. 

How well it works

The results of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine clinical trials showed strong results, with onset of protection seen as early as 14 days after the vaccination. Interestingly, depending on which part of the world you are currently residing in and because of the different variants being spread in different countries, the vaccine ranges from 57-72% effective against protecting against moderate cases of COVID-19. Moderate COVID-19 was classified as patients who tested positive for the virus, along with either one of the following: evidence of pneumonia, deep vein thrombosis, difficulty breathing, or two or more of the signs of the virus, such as cough, sore throat, fever or chills.

The vaccine reportedly has 85% efficacy in preventing severe/critical COVID-19 cases, regardless of geographical region, 28 days after the vaccination. Severe COVID-19 was classified as patients who tested positive for the virus, along with severe illness, respiratory failure, shock, organ dysfunction, or hospital intensive care unit admission. 

(You can read our article explaining the different variants here). 

Who can get it

The vaccine was studied in those 18 years and older and not pregnant. Those who had any clinically significant acute illness or temperature greater than 100.4 °F within 24 hours prior to the vaccination were excluded from the study. the company has started trials to test the vaccine in those as young as 12. 

How the science works

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine works similarly to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. It uses a weakened version of an adenovirus and alters it to include the COVID-19 spike protein. The adenovirus is genetically modified so that it can’t replicate in humans to cause disease. Once inside, the body recognizes it as foreign and produces immune cells and antibodies to fight it. This is a learned response so that in the future, the body is able to recognize and respond even faster. The main difference between Johnson & Johnson and Oxford-AstraZeneca is that Johnson & Johnson did not use a chimpanzee specific adenovirus.. 


This vaccine is unique because it is only one dose. This may make it easier logistically to roll-out—especially in rural communities—if it does receive emergency authorization from the FDA. 

The Sputnik V Vaccine

The Sputnik V vaccine has been developed by the Russian government. It has been surrounded by controversy because Russia granted the vaccine for emergency use all the way back in August before late-stage trials had been performed. However, the publication of the long-awaited late-stage trial results in the British medical journal The Lancet seems to show that this vaccine is both safe and highly effective. 

How well it works

According to the peer-reviewed article in The Lancet, the Sputnik V vaccine has an efficacy of 91.6%, including complete protection against severe illness from COVID-19. 

Who can get it

The vaccine study enrolled patients over 18 years old, negative for HIV, hepatitis B and C, and syphilis test result negative, no history of COVID-19, non-pregnant women, and no acute infectious or respiratory diseases in the 14 days prior to enrollment of the study.  

So far, around 2 million people have received this vaccine. It is approved for use in 15 countries in addition to Russia, including Argentina, Hungary, and Serbia.

How the science works

The Sputnik V vaccine uses very similar vaccine technology to both Johnson & Johnson and Oxford-AstraZeneca. Again, an adenovirus vector is introduced to the body to trigger an immune response and teach the body to identify and respond accordingly. 


The vaccine is a two dose-series given 21 days apart.

Keep in mind that new information about these vaccines is coming out frequently, especially concerning which ones are available where. Check back in frequently for more information! And in the meantime, you can read some of our other posts below.

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