Thanks to COVID-19 vaccines, we have been able to see loved ones more often with less fear and experience less intense symptoms. However, the pandemic is far from over, with cases continue to climb in large wavespeople struggling with long COVID and more.
As scientists and health experts continue to learn how to combat the virus, more treatment and prevention methods are becoming available, including additional vaccines. This week, a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee voted unanimously to recommend Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine. If it gets the green light from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the shot could be cleared for emergency clearance use in the coming days.
So why is a new vaccine licensed when there are millions of expiring unused COVID vaccines on the shelves? Will this new vaccine move the needle in the pandemic?
Here’s what the experts think and everything you need to know:
How does the Novavax vaccine work compared to other vaccines?
Unlike the Pfizer, Moderna and J&J vaccines — the first two mRNA-based and the last viral vector-based — Novavax’s is protein-based.
Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine “is a common technology used in most other vaccines, such as influenza, hepatitis B and shingles,” said Dr. Mahdee Sobhanieinfectious disease physician at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “The protein, which is selected in this case for the Novavax vaccine, is the spike protein found in COVID-19.”
When your body recognizes the protein, it prepares to fight it. “The person’s immune system does the rest by recognizing the foreign (i.e. non-human) protein and producing antibodies to block it,” explained Dr. David Diemertthe clinical director of the George Washington University Vaccine Research Unit.
The Novavax vaccine also contains an adjuvant, or additive, that helps increase the immune response to the protein, according to Diemert. He called it more of a “traditional” vaccine because some older vaccines are also protein-based.
The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine is a two-shot regimen given 21 days apart. As for the boosters, Sobhanie said he’s not sure if one would be needed to fight future variants or not, given the limited data.
Diemert thinks a recall may be needed. “Based on the decrease in antibody levels over time following both injections of the Novavax vaccine, and appearance of new variantsbooster doses may be needed to maintain immunity,” he said.
Is the Novavax vaccine effective in fighting COVID and does it work better than others already available?
According to data from 2021, before the omicron variant became the dominant strain, Pfizer was about 95% effective in protecting people against symptomatic COVID-19 after receiving the first injections; Moderna was 94.1% efficient and J&J was 66% efficient. (As we now know, vaccines have been less effective against omicron in preventing symptomatic disease, and antibodies acquired from injections decline over time. A booster increases our protection. All vaccines significantly reduce the risk of disease serious and death.)
Tested last year Novavax was 90.4% effective to protect people from symptomatic COVID-19 and 100% effective in protecting people from moderate to severe COVID-19 after people have been vaccinated. So the number is slightly lower for mild cases of COVID-19 – but not to be ignored, especially with the benefits we’ll discuss a bit later.
“Novavax has been used in other parts of the world and has emergency use authorization from the European Union and the World Health Organization,” Sobhanie added.
But can he protect us against new variants, like omicronand its subvariants like BA.2 and BA.4? Experts are still gathering information there. “These trials were mostly done before the delta and omicron variants appeared, so the effectiveness against these is not known,” Diemert explained.
What are the side effects of the Novavax COVID vaccine?
Side effects – which are relatively mild, according to Sobhanie – mainly include pain at the injection site, fatigue, headaches and muscle aches.
“The FDA released data indicating that there were five cases of myocarditis, which occurred in patients who received the Novavax vaccine during clinical trials, four of which occurred within 20 days of vaccination,” it said. -he declares.
However, the greatest risk of myocarditis comes from contracting COVID-19 itself. (Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle, which can impact the heart’s ability to pump blood.)
Both experts said there were no risks other than these potential side effects. “None of them were serious or resulted in permanent damage,” Diemert added.
What do the experts think of the Novavax vaccine? How can this help us all?
Most experts don’t see a problem. “The technology used to make this vaccine is not new and has been used in other vaccines people have received,” Sobhanie said. “I think it provides an additional choice for people … who may be reluctant to get the mRNA vaccine or the Johnson & Johnson. …The side effect profile is similar to those based on mRNA.
Diemert also said he “fully supports[s]» the panel’s recommendation to authorize the vaccine. “Based on clinical trials conducted to date, the vaccine has been shown to be safe, well tolerated and as effective as currently approved/licensed vaccines against earlier versions/variants of the virus.”
He named three advantages of the Novavax vaccine: it was made by a proven more “traditional” way (so people might be less hesitant to take it), it doesn’t need to be frozen like other vaccines , and it is yet another tool to prevent more or stronger COVID-19 cases.
All of this is crucial, especially since the global distribution of vaccines is low. Novavax, with its simpler storage method, can help fill this gap.
When will it be available? Can children get it?
It is difficult to give a precise date; the FDA and CDC still have to formally sign off before the vaccine can be administered. It could be as early as next week.
There is no information yet on whether the Novavax vaccine is safe for young childrenbut Diemert said studies show similar results for safety, immune response and efficacy in 12-18 year olds as in adults.
Ultimately, more vaccines are a good thing – as long as people are continually urged to take them.
Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available at the time of publication, but advice may change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most recent recommendations.
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