TRUST INDEX: Comirnaty vaccine, Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are the same shot with different names

Once FDA approved, companies can brand drugs with new names to market them

SAN ANTONIO – The latest question into the KSAT Trust Index has to do with the COVID-19 vaccines that have now been fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which include the Pfizer and Moderna shots.

A KSAT viewer sent in a claim he saw saying the newly branded Comirnaty vaccine and the Pfizer-BioNTech are different.

The Trust Index team did the research and found out that’s not the case.

The vaccines circulating in the U.S., such as Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson, were given emergency use authorization because of the severity of the pandemic.

However, the longer process to fully approve the vaccines continued.

The FDA officially approved the Pfizer vaccine on Aug. 23, 2021. The Moderna vaccine was approved on Jan. 31, 2022.

“They can’t charge for it, they can’t brand it, they can’t market it until it gets full approval because the FDA still wants that time to evaluate efficacy and safety,” said Dr. Bowling, associate professor and infectious disease specialist in the Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio and chief epidemiologist at University Health.

Once the Pfizer vaccine was approved, it was quickly named Comirnaty, a blend of the words COVID, mRNA, and community.

Bowling confirmed the vaccines are the same and even formulated by the same company.

Viewers told KSAT the FDA webpage on the subject led to some confusion because it lists Comirnaty and Pfizer separately. However, Bowling said that was to show the vaccine was under emergency use authorization until it was approved and branded.

“So people who had Pfizer BioNTech can finish their series with the Comirnaty vaccine,” he said.

Another reason it is listed separately is to show the ages that have been fully approved for the vaccine. Right now, the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for people ages 12 and up, so that age group will receive a vaccine labeled Comirnaty.

Pfizer has an emergency use authorization for ages 5-12, but since it hasn’t been fully approved for that age yet, the vaccine label will remain Pfizer-BioNTech.

It will be the same situation for the Moderna vaccine, which is also being renamed and branded as Spikevax.

Bowling said this would happen for other vaccines as their FDA approvals come in.

So the claim that the branded vaccine Comirnaty and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are different is false on the KSAT Trust Index.

Not True

After review, we've found this information is Not True.

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About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.