Comparative effectiveness of BNT162b2 versus mRNA-1273 covid-19 vaccine boosting in England

A comparison of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for protecting against Covid-19 during the first booster programme in England

The BMJ, 2023

Paper information

Hulme W J, Horne E M F, Parker E P K, Keogh R H, Williamson E J, Walker V et al. Comparative effectiveness of BNT162b2 versus mRNA-1273 covid-19 vaccine boosting in England: matched cohort study in OpenSAFELY-TPP BMJ 2023; 380 :e072808


To compare the effectiveness of the BNT162b2 mRNA (Pfizer-BioNTech) and mRNA-1273 (Moderna) covid-19 vaccines during the booster programme in England.


Matched cohort study, emulating a comparative effectiveness trial.


Linked primary care, hospital, and covid-19 surveillance records available within the OpenSAFELY-TPP research platform, covering a period when the SARS-CoV-2 delta and omicron variants were dominant.


3,237,918 adults who received a booster dose of either vaccine between 29 October 2021 and 25 February 2022 as part of the national booster programme in England and who received a primary course of BNT162b2 or ChAdOx1.


Vaccination with either BNT162b2 or mRNA-1273 as a booster vaccine dose.

Main outcome measures

Recorded SARS-CoV-2 positive test, covid-19 related hospital admission, covid-19 related death, and non-covid-19 related death at 20 weeks after receipt of the booster dose.


1,618,959 people were matched in each vaccine group, contributing a total 64,546,391 person weeks of follow-up. The 20 week risks per 1000 for a positive SARS-CoV-2 test were 164.2 (95% confidence interval 163.3 to 165.1) for BNT162b2 and 159.9 (159.0 to 160.8) for mRNA-1273; the hazard ratio comparing mRNA-1273 with BNT162b2 was 0.95 (95% confidence interval 0.95 to 0.96). The 20 week risks per 1000 for hospital admission with covid-19 were 0.75 (0.71 to 0.79) for BNT162b2 and 0.65 (0.61 to 0.69) for mRNA-1273; the hazard ratio was 0.89 (0.82 to 0.95). Covid-19 related deaths were rare: the 20 week risks per 1000 were 0.028 (0.021 to 0.037) for BNT162b2 and 0.024 (0.018 to 0.033) for mRNA-1273; hazard ratio 0.83 (0.58 to 1.19). Comparative effectiveness was generally similar within subgroups defined by the primary course vaccine brand, age, previous SARS-CoV-2 infection, and clinical vulnerability. Relative benefit was similar when vaccines were compared separately in the delta and omicron variant eras.


This matched observational study of adults estimated a modest benefit of booster vaccination with mRNA-1273 compared with BNT162b2 in preventing positive SARS-CoV-2 tests and hospital admission with covid-19 20 weeks after vaccination, during a period of delta followed by omicron variant dominance.