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VERIFY: Yes, you can choose which type of COVID-19 vaccine you get in Indiana. Here’s how to do it.

The online registration system implemented by the Indiana State Department of Health now clearly states which type of vaccine is available at each clinic.

INDIANAPOLIS — With a shipment of the newly-approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine on its way to Indiana, some Hoosiers are now wondering if they can choose which type of COVID-19 vaccine they receive.

The question

“Many people I know do not want the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and are opting to wait for the J&J to come out so that we can just get one shot,” Mary Anne wrote in an email to 13News VERIFY. “Will we be able to know where the Johnson & Johnson single vaccine will be available?”

The answer

To the surprise of many Indiana residents, yes, you CAN choose which brand of coronavirus vaccine you receive. That is possible because Indiana requires all vaccine recipients to register for their shot, and the online registration system implemented by the Indiana State Department of Health now clearly states which type of vaccine is available at each vaccination clinic site.

However, state and federal health officials point out that all three brands of COVID-19 vaccine now approved in the U.S. and available in Indiana are highly effective in preventing serious cases of COVID-19, including coronavirus-related hospitalization and death.

Our sources

The Indiana State Department of Health and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.

The background

It’s not difficult to see why some individuals are taking sides when it comes to choosing a vaccine and might have a preference for one vaccine over another.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use mRNA technology and both require two shots to be fully effective, while the Johnson & Johnson product is a viral vector vaccine that requires only one shot.

Unlike the first two vaccines which must be stored at super cold sub-zero temperatures, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is easier to transport and store.

Data reviewed by the FDA showed the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 94% to 95% effective in preventing coronavirus. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine proved to be 72% effective in testing done in the United States, and about 66% effective overall in its testing worldwide.

But trials show all three vaccines reduce the rate of COVID-19 hospitalization and death by 100%, meaning no one who received the shots during the vaccines’ trial periods required hospitalization or died from coronavirus after being immunized. (Following the trials and after the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were administered around the world, there are isolated reports of people who acquired COVID-19 and required hospitalization, but those incidents and hospitalization rates are extremely low.)

And trials in South Africa show the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is also effective against some of the new COVID-19 variants. Trials of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines took place before those variants became widespread, so there is not as much data to determine their effectiveness against variants.

Patients who want greater efficiency by taking a single vaccine might be more eager to receive the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Those who prefer the more widely-distributed Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, which boast higher efficacy rates in preventing the virus, might be inclined to seek out those instead.

Many states do not identity which brand of vaccine is supplied to each individual vaccine clinic, so someone getting a coronavirus shot would have no way of knowing which vaccine they will get until they arrive at the site for their shot. Indiana is doing things differently, which provides Hoosiers a choice.

How to choose your vaccine

The Indiana State Department of Health confirmed for 13News VERIFY that state’s vaccine registration website does list which type of vaccine is stocked at each vaccine clinic site in Indiana.

We went online to double check and, sure enough, the vaccine information is clearly identified – especially if you know where to look and what to look for.

Credit: Indiana State Department of Health

When you sign up to get a vaccine at ourshot.in.gov, you will have the opportunity to see all of the vaccine clinic sites across the state, including those closest to your home or workplace. Next to each location, you will find a three-letter or four-letter code. Here is what those codes mean:

  • Clinics that administer only the Pfizer vaccine are listed as PVAX.
  • Clinics that have only the Moderna vaccine have the letters MVAX.
  • Clinics that will be offering only the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are be listed as JVAX.
  • Clinics that have more than one type of vaccine are listed simply as VAX, which means you’ll need to call the facility to get more information if you want to check the brand of COVID-19 vaccine it offers.

Below the name of some clinic sites, ISDH also includes a red box that states which specific vaccine is offered at that location.

Tuesday morning, the state health department told VERIFY, “Because we have not received our allotment of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, it is not listed on the website yet.”

By Tuesday afternoon, that had changed. ISDH announced a mass vaccination clinic that will be held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend will be offering the newest vaccine, and the JVAX designation was already listed.

So, yes, you can find out where the Johnson & Johnson single vaccine will be available. And because you get to decide where to get your vaccine in Indiana, Hoosiers who want to choose which brand of vaccine they get can do so.

Before you decide…

But along with that choice, there are a few important things to keep in mind.

First, the state has way more Pfizer and Moderna vaccine right now, so if you really want the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you may need to wait longer to get it.

And clinical trials have shown all three vaccines work extremely well when it comes to preventing hospitalization and death from COVID-19. When the nation’s leading infectious disease doctor discussed the vaccines on NBC’s Meet the Press this past weekend, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he highly recommends all of the vaccines.

“All three of them are really quite good and people should take the one that’s most available to them,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. “I think people need to get vaccinated as quickly as expeditiously as possible.”

ISDH has more details about each vaccine on its vaccine information website.

If you have something you’d like us to verify for you, send us an email at VERIFY@wthr.com.