New COVID-19 vaccine may sway unvaccinated to get protected

By The Health News Team | August 19, 2022
Woman getting vaccinated

In the U.S., more than 21% of people eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine have yet to get at least one dose, even though case numbers continue to rise. A new, more traditional, vaccine may change their minds.

The Novavax adjuvanted protein subunit vaccine has been granted emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). People in several other countries have already been able to receive the vaccine since November 2021.

“While the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are mRNA vaccines, the Novavax vaccine uses a different approach,” says Dr. Chitra Safaya, an infectious disease specialist affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital. “It involves injecting a spike protein, which is the outer covering of the virus, grown in insect cells along with an adjuvant — or immune stimulant — made from soap bark tree extract found in Chile to trigger an immune response.”

Protein-based technology has been used in vaccines to prevent diseases such as hepatitis B, shingles, whooping cough and human papillomavirus (HPV) for decades. Public health officials believe people not comfortable with the genetic molecule instruction approach of the mRNA vaccines may be more apt to receive a vaccine that uses this traditional method.

“Even though it’s arriving late in the pandemic, this vaccine is different and can serve people who are hesitant to get the mRNA vaccines,” Dr. Safaya says.

About the Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Novavax vaccine is authorized for use in people age 18 and older and requires two doses given 3 to 8 weeks apart. It is not yet authorized for use as a booster dose.

In clinical trials, the vaccine was 90.4% effective in preventing mild, moderate or severe COVID-19 in people ages 18 to 64. The vaccine was 78.6% effective in trial participants age 65 and older.

Side effects are more common after the second dose of the vaccine and can include injection site pain and tenderness, fever, chills, tiredness and headache. While harmless pieces of the coronavirus are used in the vaccine, receiving the vaccine cannot cause you to catch COVID-19.

Though severe allergic reactions to the Novavax vaccine are rare, a small number of cases of myocarditis and pericarditis have been reported in people who received it. However, the FDA determined the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks of developing the rare condition.

“The Novavax vaccine is another great vaccine with two doses and 90% efficacy for preventing symptomatic COVID,” Dr. Safaya says. “And preliminary data have shown it has efficacy against emerging omicron subvariants, which will be extremely useful in the upcoming fall season.”

Appointments to receive the Novavax or the other COVID-19 vaccines at no cost can be scheduled at a county vaccination site through MyTurn or by calling 211 for help scheduling. You can also walk into any no-appointment San Diego County vaccine location.

Get COVID-19 vaccine and testing information and access to COVID-19 resources from Sharp.

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