INDIANA – Adults who haven’t gotten any COVID-19 shots yet should consider a new option from Novavax ― a more traditional kind of vaccine, health officials said Tuesday.
CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., endorsed the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendation that Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine be used as another primary series option for adults ages 18 years and older. Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine, which will be available in the coming weeks, is an important tool in the pandemic and provides a more familiar type of COVID-19 vaccine technology for adults. Having multiple types of vaccines offers more options and flexibility for the public, jurisdictions, and vaccine providers.
Protein subunit vaccines package harmless proteins of the COVID-19 virus alongside another ingredient called an adjuvant that helps the immune system respond to the virus in the future. Vaccines using protein subunits have been used for more than 30 years in the United States, beginning with the first licensed hepatitis B vaccine. Other protein subunit vaccines used in the United States today include those to protect against influenza and whooping cough (acellular pertussis).
Regulators authorized the nation’s first so-called protein vaccine against COVID-19 last week, but the final hurdle was a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Today (Tuesday), we have expanded the options available to adults in the U.S. by recommending another safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. If you have been waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine built on a different technology than those previously available, now is the time to join the millions of Americans who have been vaccinated. With COVID-19 cases on the rise again across parts of the country, vaccination is critical to help protect against the complications of severe COVID-19 disease.”
Most Americans have gotten at least their primary COVID-19 vaccinations by now, but CDC officials said between 26 million and 37 million adults haven’t had a single dose ― the population that Novavax, for now, will be targeting.
The Novavax difference
All of the vaccines used in the U.S. train the body to fight the coronavirus by recognizing its outer coating, the spike protein ― and the first three options essentially turn people’s cells into a temporary vaccine factory. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines deliver genetic instructions for the body to make copies of the spike protein. The lesser-used Johnson & Johnson option uses a cold virus to deliver those instructions.
In contrast, the Novavax vaccine injects copies of the spike protein that are grown in a lab and packaged into nanoparticles that to the immune system resemble a virus. Another difference: An ingredient called an adjuvant, that’s made from the bark of a South American tree, is added to help rev up that immune response.
Protein vaccines have been used for years to prevent other diseases including hepatitis B and shingles.
How well it works
Large studies in the U.S., Mexico, and Britain found two doses of the Novavax vaccine were safe and about 90% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19. When the delta variant emerged last summer, Novavax reported a booster dose revved up virus-fighting antibodies that could tackle that mutant.