Constable: Comirnaty might make you have SpikeVax envy, but just get the shot

  • While Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine seems like a mouthful, the brand name of Comirnaty is also tricky to pronounce.

    While Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine seems like a mouthful, the brand name of Comirnaty is also tricky to pronounce. Loren Holmes/Anchorage Daily News

  • Pfizer Inc., headquartered in New York, considered many vaccine names before going through the long, detailed process to get Comirnaty approved.

    Pfizer Inc., headquartered in New York, considered many vaccine names before going through the long, detailed process to get Comirnaty approved. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 8/26/2021 6:30 AM

When vaccines came up in conversations with friends, and it did, I took misguided pride in announcing that I got the Pfizer vaccine. I didn't choose Pfizer. It was pure chance, and my dose was not that different from Moderna's vaccine.

I endured a few initial brags from the "one and done" Johnson & Johnson crowd, but they shut up after their vaccine was suspended for a short time because of few blood clot issues.

 

Now that I'm waiting for my booster shot, I'm a bit more focused on the names. The Pfizer shot now is called "Comirnaty," which everyone agrees is just "community" as pronounced by a toddler with a mouth full of marshmallows. Moderna, on the other hand, is calling its booster "SpikeVax," which sounds like the name of an awesome metal band and might tempt me to get a rocking SpikeVax tattoo on my ankle if I were in the Moderna crowd.

Drug names are meant to entice us by giving just a hint (or no hint at all) about what they do.

Vicodin, Norco and Xodol are the opioids that used to be handed out to anybody complaining about a sprained ankle or a sore tooth, but they also could be the names given to a three-headed dog that guards the netherworld. Of course, heroin, the illicit drug that has caused so much heartbreak, is just one letter away from being a noble heroine.

Amoxil is the brand name for amoxicillin, but it sounds like a character from "Star Wars." Warfarin is a popular blood-thinner, but it could be the name of a kingdom in "Game of Thrones." And Lipitor, the cholesterol drug, could be the name of the winged horse Amoxil rode into Warfarin.

As a kid growing up with a gravel driveway, I remember my mom applying a red medicine to my skinned knees. Mercurochrome seemed to be a combination of "cure," which I wanted, and "Kodachrome," which was a catchy tune by Paul Simon. All good. But I learned to associate the word Mercurochrome with mind-numbing pain until it fell out of favor with people who didn't want to give children mercury.

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Another drug from my youth, "St. Joseph Aspirin for Children," sounded as if it was reserved for my Catholic buddies who got out of school early to attend catechism, another word that sounds far cooler than it apparently was. Those chewable aspirins tasted like an orange candy, which is one of the reasons for the invention of childproof caps.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has a long list of vaccines used in the U.S., and some of the names make sense.

Seasonal influenza vaccines include Afluria, Fluad, FluBlok, Flucelvax, FluLaval, Fluarix, Fluvirin and Fluzone, all of which could join Abraxas, Adaptoid, Freyja, Fantomex and Thanos on a list of Marvel characters whose names sound medicinal. Loki, a brother to Thor and pronounced "low key," sounds as if it could be an ADHD medication. Ivermectin, a drug used to prevent parasites in horses, is being wrongly used by some to prevent or treat COVID-19 -- and should be renamed Ivermoron.

The Alexa app has a "Drug Name Game," which she starts by asking for the brand name of simvastatin, and waits for you to answer Zocor. She continues in this manner until you can prove you have a Ph.D. in pharmacy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Generic drug names generally use a suffix that tells how it works. The suffix "afil" has something to do with control of blood flow, which is why you find it in erectile dysfunction pills such as Viagra (sildenafil), Cialis (tadalafil), Levitra (vardenafil) and Stendra (avanafil), according to the Pfizer webpage titled "Ever wonder how drugs are named?"

Brand names start with a list of about 200 possibilities and get narrowed down by eliminating names that sound too similar to others, those that translate differently in other parts of the word, and the name's ability to be remembered and sound catchy. The name must be approved by the United States Adopted Names Council, which operates out of the American Medical Association in Chicago.

A booster by any other name than Comirnaty would sound a little sweeter. That said, I'm still excited about my Comirnaty booster. And if the injection hurts, I still have Mercurochrome memories to remind me what real pain is.

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