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The newest COVID vaccine on the market, Novavax, is now available for children as young as 12 years old.
Why it matters
Novavax is the first protein vaccine against COVID-19 available in the US, which is a more traditional type of vaccine. Bringing one more on board gives people who are unvaccinated another option.
What does this mean for you?
If you have not yet received any vaccine against COVID-19, you can receive Novavax.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday recommended Novavax as the primary line of the COVID-19 vaccine for children and adolescents aged 12 years and older. The decision to allow Novavax to be given to adolescents aged 12 to 17 years follows an expanded authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration to make Novavax available to the younger group.
Last month, the FDA and CDCon the two-dose basic series of Novavax vaccine for adults.
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 used for more than 30 years, according to the CDC, and are used against shingles, the flu and others.
After more than two years of the pandemic, the number of fully vaccinated people has not changed much in recent weeks or months, and those who are hesitant to get vaccinated appear 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.
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. That 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, a 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 had 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?
You should see places that stock Novavax on the government’s vaccine finder website. To find a dose near you, select Novavax from the list and enter your zip code. (It’s currently listed as being available for adults 18+, but that should change soon to include older kids and teens.)
Who can get Novavax?
Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine is for people 12 years of age and older who have not yet received any vaccine against COVID-19. It is approved as a two-dose basic series, with each dose usually given three weeks apart. (But you can get a second dose up to eight weeks after the first, according to the CDC.)
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 should not use them, Kristen Nichols, a pharmacist and senior content management consultant at Wolters Kluwer, said in an email.
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, 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. They 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 the important thing is that 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 contagious 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 go away within a few days. These are signs that your immune system is reacting and creating defenses.
Myocarditis and pericarditis (inflammation of the heart) are rare side effects of Novavax. Six of the roughly 40,000 vaccine recipients developed heart inflammation in the Novavax clinical trial, compared with one in the placebo group. Younger males or adolescent boys were at higher risk of developing myocarditis or pericarditis after vaccination with mRNA vaccine, typically after the 2nd dose. Most of those who developed heart inflammation felt better quickly.
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.