"Comirnaty" aka the Pfizer vaccine
Call me “Comirnaty”
Image: Reuters/Eric Gaillard

It’s also notable that Pfizer chose to highlight its umbrella brand instead of the name they came up for their Covid-19 gambit. Last year, it worked with the Brand Institute to coin the name “Comirnaty,” (koe mir’ na tee), a mouthful of a mash-up of community, immunity, mRNA, and Covid.

Moderna’s vaccine is very similar to Pfizer’s in term of technology, dosage, and efficacy rates. The 10-year old Massachusetts-based company reported a 94.1% efficacy rate in clinical trials compared to Pfizer’s 95%, and consumers seem to be honing in on the slight percentage difference. When given the choice, they pick Pfizer over Moderna. A more recent survey of recipients suggests that both vaccines have an efficacy rate of 90%.

The purpose of branding

Brands, in essence, serve to simplify choices for the public. In a sea of options, a well developed brand will highlight differentiating attributes of a product.

“Brands address an information problem,” explains Hermosilla. “On a very high level, brands help in the search process and they do so by giving you some sort of quick summary of the functional and emotive value of a product.”

But Hermosilla says in the interest of getting through the pandemic, it’s crucial to subvert our consumerist instincts for comparison shopping and heed the advice of health experts.

“Rather than use this commentary to rationalize brand preferences and further a kind of vaccine elitism, we should try to understand the bigger crisis and postpone the dilemma of choice until the height of the pandemic is behind us,” he adds.

Hermosilla, who is scheduled to receive his second Pfizer dose this week, says he was glad to receive the favored brand, but he would have taken any drug available.

My parents who are in their 70s and my grandma who is 90 living in Chile received the Chinese vaccine. I was extremely happy that they had gotten it, even though the headline efficacy number isn’t as good as Pfizer’s,” he says.

Hermosilla echoes the opinion of the world’s top medical experts who stress that any of the approved vaccines is 100% effective against preventing severe complications that lead to hospitalizations or fatalities. “The most important thing to do is to get vaccinated and not to try and figure out which one may be or may not be better than the other.” explained Dr. Anthony Fauci in a recent White House briefing. Similarly,  Dr. John Wright, head of the Bradford Institute for Health Research, wrote a searing editorial explaining the futility of fussing over brands. “The concept of consumer choice when it comes to immunization, or even medications, is alien,” he argued. “Comparing vaccines is not as simple as comparing cola drinks or cars. The clinical trials that have reported very early results will continue for their full twelve-month duration and the results will become more reliable with time. We have yet to start vaccine trials that can make head-to-head comparisons between different vaccines, so it may be that early results reflect different populations, or dosing regimes.”

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