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The CDC has recommended a new vaccine for COVID-19 called Novavax.
Why it matters
Novavax is the first protein-based vaccine against COVID-19 available in the US, although protein-based vaccines have been around for decades.
What does this mean for you?
If you have not yet been vaccinated, you are entitled to Novavax, which expands vaccination options.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine late Tuesday,from a group of scientific advisors who advise the CDC.
Novavax is a two-dose core vaccine for adults age 18 and older, approved last week by the US Food and Drug Administration. As it is only recommended as a basic series and not as a booster dose, the new vaccine cannot yet be used as a booster in people who have already been vaccinated.
But the availability of Novavax means that people who were looking for a protein-based type of vaccine or a more “traditional” type of vaccine may now be more inclined to get vaccinated against COVID. Types of vaccines like Novavax have been around for more than 30 years, according to the CDC.
More than two years after the pandemic, most Americans (about 67%) are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and many have added. However, the number of fully vaccinated people has not changed much in recent weeks, and those who are hesitant to get vaccinated seem to be firm in their stance, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The percentage of American adults surveyed who said they would “definitely not” get the COVID-19 vaccine ranged from 15% in December 2020 to 17% in April 2022.
Novavax had a contract with the federal government through Operation Warp Speed, but experienced manufacturing problems that prevented rapid authorization for emergency use. Its COVID vaccine is already available in other countries, including Canada and Australia, under the name Nuvaxovid.
“It’s good to have a vaccine like Novavax on board because it’s another option for those who may have contraindications to other vaccine platforms,” Ross Kedl, professor of immunology and microbiology at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, said in an email. . “Some have allergic reactions or rarer concerns like blood clots.”
The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is still licensed in the US, but its use has already been approvedbecause of the rare but serious risk of blood clots. That leaves the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as the other two currently recommended options for adults.
Here’s what you should know about Novavax.
When can I get a Novavax injection?
The CDC, when recommending Novavax, said the vaccine would be available “in the coming weeks.” Currently, the government’s vaccine search tool does not list Novavax as an option available at nearby pharmacies.
The Biden administration announced this month that it has secured more than 3 million doses of Novavax to be released to the states.
Who can get Novavax?
Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine is intended for adults who have not yet received any vaccine against COVID-19. It is approved as a two-dose basic series for adults 18 years of age and older, with each dose usually given three weeks apart.
Because it is authorized as a primary series, people who have already been vaccinated cannot now receive it as an additional dose or booster. But as the FDA allowed aaccess with other COVID-19 vaccines in the past, the authorization of Novavax may be extended to more people in the future.
“I think the real benefit of the Novavax vaccine is in a broader area,” Kedl said before the FDA approval. “Because now it has one more vaccine platform to combine and compare with other vaccines.”
It’s also possible that Novavax could have a new omicron-specific booster ready this fall or winter. After the FDA announced its plans toNovavax said it is accelerating work on an omicron vaccine that targets the super-contagious BA.5. But like other new, future boosters made by other vaccine companies, the FDA will have to authorize it separately.
What is Novavax? how is it different
Novavax is a COVID-19 vaccine that, unlike other vaccines currently available in the US, uses a more traditional protein-based technology: Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna use mRNA technology, and Johnson & Johnson is a viral vector vaccine.
In the Novavax vaccine, the purified virus protein is mixed with what’s called an adjuvant — ingredients that “wake up the immune response and tell it to take this target seriously,” Kedl said.
Dr. Glenn Wortmann, an infectious disease specialist at MedStar Health, said the general approach for most vaccines is to use a protein base.
“Specifically, Novavax is very similar to the hepatitis B vaccine” that most of us get as children, Wortmann said. Some vaccines against flu, shingles and other diseases use similar technology.
While it offers another option, the jury may be out on whether Novavax offers better immunity than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
“Immunologically speaking, in my opinion, that alone doesn’t bring much to the table that isn’t already well addressed with mRNA vaccines,” Kedl said.
However, it is easier to store and transport than mRNA vaccines, he said. This may be an advantage when vaccinating hard-to-reach communities where refrigeration of selective vaccines may be difficult. But Novavax has serious drawbacks when it comes to manufacturing, Kedl said, because it’s not cheap for a company to make and purify the proteins.
“MRNA vaccines skip this step because they make each individual their own vaccine producer,” he said. mRNA vaccines work by teaching our cells to make a protein on their own that triggers an immune response.
Because of this, mRNA vaccines are easier to modify than Novavax when a new variant emerges, Kedl said.
“The mRNA platform is much more modifiable than what Novavax does,” he said. “Every time a new variant of the vaccine needs to be made, Novavax will have to do a lot of work in the lab to find out which changes will still make it possible to make and purify a good protein in large quantities.”
How effective is Novavax?
Published study results found that Novavax was more than 90% effective against symptomatic COVID-19 and 100% effective against severe disease and death. But importantly, this test was done before the omicron or delta variants became widely available. Both the delta and omicron variants—including the omicron subvariant BA.5—are more infectious and evade some immunity to vaccines and prior infection.
Real data comparing the effectiveness of Novavax with other vaccines do not yet exist. The World Health Organization states that “it is not possible to compare vaccines directly against each other due to different approaches in designing the respective studies.”
How will the US pay for Novavax?
While the COVID-19 vaccines have been free and available to all Americans, recent funding has stalled in Congress and federal officials have warned that we are running out of money for tests, vaccines, treatment and related expenses. Some services for Americanshave already expired.
The US government has secured 3.2 million doses of Novavax, meaning the doses will be free. Money for COVID-19 testing and protective gear is being shifted to cover the cost of vaccines and treatment in the fall, The New York Times reports.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions regarding health conditions or health goals.