As the summer COVID-19 surge fueled by the omicron subvariant BA.5 sweeps across the United States, often evading immunity from past infection or vaccination, a new vaccine has just gotten the green light.
On July 19, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) signed off on Novavax’s two-dose COVID-19 vaccine as a primary series for adults over 18, offering people who haven’t yet been vaccinated an option using conventional technology that’s been around for more than 30 years. This is the fourth vaccine to be authorized in the United States for the prevention of COVID-19.
“The Novavax vaccine is administered as a two-dose primary series, with doses given three weeks apart,” said Shalika Katugaha, MD, system medical director of Infectious Diseases at Baptist Health. “It’s not used for a booster shot at this time, but the company has been studying how well it would work for that purpose.”
In the future, the vaccine will likely be included in studies assessing mixing and matching different brands, Dr. Katugaha added.
How does it work?
The COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available utilize different delivery mechanisms to get the same result. Cells in the individual’s body recognize the spike protein as foreign, and the immune system reacts by producing antibodies to attack the virus if you're exposed.
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines use mRNA technology, but this new option is different.
“Unlike the mRNA vaccines, the Novavax shot directly injects a version of the virus’ spike protein, which has been formulated in a laboratory and doesn't contain genetic material, along with an adjuvant, which is an ingredient to enhance the body’s immune response," said Dr. Katugaha. “The harmless spike protein in Novavax is like the virus, but it’s not the virus.”
Who should receive it?
Health officials are hoping this new option will appeal to those in the United States who are still unvaccinated. Currently, only 67% of the U.S. population (both adults and children) is fully vaccinated.
Even though the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective, people have been wary to get them because the technology is considered new.
“The hope is that this familiar technology will make those who have been hesitant to get an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine more comfortable getting this option,” said Dr. Katugaha.
Novavax has reported positive results in clinical trials of children ages 12-17. The company will likely seek authorization for this age group and then begin trials in the younger children.
“COVID-19 vaccines remain our strongest tool in combatting the pandemic,” said Dr. Katugaha. “It’s great to have more options on so many levels.”
Is the new vaccine effective?
An ongoing study conducted in the United States and Mexico assessed Novavax vaccine efficacy in clinical trial participants 18 and older, according to the CDC. In the study, 17,200 participants received the vaccine, and 8,300 participants received the placebo. The Novavax vaccine was 90.4% effective in preventing mild, moderate or severe COVID-19.
What are the side effects?
Like the other COVID-19 vaccines, potential side effects include:
- Pain, tenderness or redness at the injection site
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
At Baptist Health, we want to help you keep our community informed about COVID-19. For more information about COVID-19 vaccines, visit baptistjax.com/covid19vaccine. Click here to find a location near you.