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Comirnaty. Get used to saying it, it's Pfizer's 'brand name' for the COVID vaccine

Once a drug gets FDA approval, the drug can be given a brand name.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Whether you call it a tissue or a Kleenex, it’s the same product.
One is the generic name for the product, the other is a brand name.

The same goes for the Pfizer COVID vaccine and its brand name, Comirnaty. They're the same thing. Although, Comirnaty doesn’t seem to roll off the tongue, does it? Pronounce it: co-mer-na-tee.

So why the new name? Let's explain.

“They know just to distinguish their product to say, hey, we were the first to receive the full FDA approval, they're giving it a brand name. So, that's nothing bad, it’s nothing different about the drug itself. It's just something that they're allowed to do in the market of healthcare,” said Dr. Andre Harvin, Cone Health’s Director of Pharmacy Oncology.

Once a drug gets FDA approval, the drug can be given a brand name. Companies do it for marketing purposes.

For example, you probably don’t Cetirizine, but you do know Zyrtec. Again, it’s a generic name and a brand name, but the same drug.

How in the world did Pfizer get the name Comirnaty? It's a mash-up of words: community, immunity, and mRNA, which is the technology used to make the vaccine.

Moderna is awaiting its FDA approval. But this week, the Moderna vaccine was approved by Health Canada. Moderna's brand name is Spikevax.

How did they get that name? One of the key biological characteristics of COVID-19 and other viruses is the presence of spike proteins.

According to the FDA, Comirnaty has the same formulation as the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine that was previously authorized for emergency use (EUA) in the United States. It will continue to be administered as a series of two doses, three weeks apart, for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older.