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The CDC has recommended a new vaccine for COVID-19: 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 received any vaccine against COVID-19, you can receive Novavax.
Adults who have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19 (about 10% of people age 18 and older have not had a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine) will be able to get Novavax, the fourth COVID-19 vaccine to be available in the United States .
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Novavax as the primary vaccine on Tuesday,from a group of scientific advisors who advise the CDC. That was the final hurdle for Novavax, and the vaccine will be available in pharmacies across the US in the coming weeks.
Because it is only authorized 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. And while the initial impact of Novavax may be limited because of this, its availability will give those who have been looking for a protein or more “traditional” vaccine another option. Types of vaccines like Novavax have been around for more than 30 years, according to the CDC, and are used against shingles, flu and others.
After more than two years of the pandemic, the number of fully vaccinated hasn’t changed much in recent weeks, and those hesitant to get vaccinated appear to be holding firm, 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.
In addition to Novavax, there are three other licensed or recommended COVID-19 vaccines on the U.S. market, and two of them are still widely recommended for adults. (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. This leaves the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as the other two currently recommended options for adults.)
“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.”
Novavax has been waiting a long time. The company had a contract with the federal government through Operation Warp Speed, but experienced production 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.
Here’s everything we know.
When can I get a Novavax injection?
The introduction of Novavax is a little different than earlier introductions of boosters or vaccines, which made shots available to people almost immediately after the final signature of CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. (In the case of Novavax, there was no “pre-ordering” of vaccine doses.)
Based on the CDC’s planning document for Novavax, we can expect doses of Novavax to appear in U.S. pharmacies as early as the end of July or the first week of August, said Kristen Nichols, pharmacist and senior content management consultant at Wolters Kluwer. e-mail. However, the timeline can also depend on where you live.
“We cannot say exactly when the benefits will be available, especially in more rural areas where it may take longer for a shipment to reach all care centers,” Nichols said.
To find out when and where Novavax is available near you, you can use the COVID-19 vaccine finder and select your preferred vaccine type.
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.
As with any drug or vaccine, people with an allergy to an ingredient in Novavax shouldn’t take them, Nichols says.
While Novavax’s primary series is now the only one authorized, it’s 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 any new, future vaccine, the FDA will have to approve it separately.
What is Novavax? how is it different
Novavax is a COVID-19 vaccine that uses a more traditional protein-based technology, unlike other vaccines currently available in the US: 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.”
What are the side effects of Novavax?
As with other vaccines, side effects after being vaccinated with Novavax are usually mild, common, and occur within seven days of vaccination, according to the CDC. Examples are fatigue, fever, chills and headache, which will disappear within a few days. These are signs that your immune system is reacting and creating defenses.
Myocarditis and pericarditis (inflammation of the heart) is a rare side effect. Six of the roughly 40,000 vaccine recipients developed it in the Novavax clinical trial, compared with one in the placebo group.
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.