What Novavax, the Latest COVID Vaccine, May Imply for Future COVID Safety


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What’s occurring

The FDA is predicted to authorize Novavax, a brand new COVID-19 vaccine, although it is nonetheless below assessment.

Why it issues

Novavax would be the first protein-based vaccine for COVID-19 accessible within the US, although the know-how has been round for many years. Whereas one of these vaccine has some benefits within the pandemic, it additionally has distinctive challenges.

What’s subsequent

The FDA and CDC might want to determine how, or if, the US makes use of Novavax.

A committee of scientists and different specialists who advise the US Meals and Drug Administration is scheduled to fulfill on the finish of June to determine how the US ought to modify its COVID-19 vaccines forward of the anticipated fall or winter case surge. 

The identical committee earlier this month endorsed Novavax, a protein-based COVID-19 vaccine, for authorization. If the FDA offers it the inexperienced gentle, it’s going to be the fourth COVID-19 vaccine available on the market within the US, and the primary to make use of a extra conventional, protein-based vaccine know-how in opposition to the coronavirus. 

It will even be one additional device the nation has in its combat in opposition to COVID-19, however one other one which’s based mostly on an ancestral pressure of COVID-19. Whereas vaccines made out of on ancestral strains proceed to offer safety in opposition to extreme illness and dying, well being regulators are debating whether or not older vaccine formulation needs to be the way in which ahead.

Greater than two years into the pandemic, a majority of People (about 67%) are absolutely vaccinated in opposition to COVID-19, and lots of have added a booster dose or two. These hesitant or against vaccination appear to be persevering with these stances, in response to a ballot from the Kaiser Household Basis. The share of American adults who answered the ballot who stated they’d “positively not” get a COVID-19 vaccine ranged from 15% in December 2020 to 17% April 2022.

Novavax had a contract with the federal authorities by means of Operation Warp Pace, however has skilled manufacturing issues which have hindered a possible emergency use authorization. Along with inspecting extra information on how Novavax fares in opposition to the omicron variant, the FDA might want to log out on the corporate’s manufacturing earlier than authorizing the vaccine. 

Nevertheless, some scientists are hopeful that Novavax could sooner or later be used as a booster dose together with different vaccines, and that its major sequence could fill a necessity for a extra conventional and probably equally efficient COVID-19 vaccine. It is also already accessible in different nations, together with Canada and Australia, below the title Nuvaxovid.

“It is good to have a vaccine on board like Novavax as a result of it is an alternative choice for those who might need contraindications to the opposite vaccine platforms,” Ross Kedl, a professor of immunology and microbiology on the College of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, stated in an e-mail. “Some have allergic reactions or extra uncommon issues like blood clots.”

The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine continues to be approved within the US, however use of it has been restricted due to a uncommon however critical danger of blood clots. This leaves Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines as the 2 at present really helpful choices for many adults.

Authorizing Novavax additionally opens the door for it for use as a booster dose or a part of a mix-and-match strategy with different COVID-19 vaccines. 

This is what to know.

Woman points to a Band-Aid on her arm after getting a shot.

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What’s Novavax? How is it completely different?

Novavax is a COVID-19 vaccine that makes use of a extra conventional protein-based know-how, in contrast to the opposite vaccines at present accessible within the US: Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna use mRNA know-how, and Johnson & Johnson is a viral-vector vaccine. 

Within the Novavax vaccine, a purified protein of the virus is combined with what’s known as an adjuvant — components that “get up the immune response and inform it to take this goal critically,” Kedl stated.

Dr. Glenn Wortmann, an infectious illness specialist with MedStar Well being, stated the final strategy of most vaccines is to make use of a protein base.

“Particularly, Novavax is similar to the hepatitis B vaccine” that the majority of us obtain as kids, Wortmann stated. Some vaccines for influenza, shingles and different illnesses use an analogous know-how.

Whereas it provides an alternative choice, nevertheless, the jury could also be out on whether or not Novavax provides superior immunity to Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines. 

“Immunologically talking, in my opinion it does probably not carry an terrible lot by itself to the desk that’s not already well-addressed by the mRNA vaccines,” Kedl stated. 

Nevertheless, it’s simpler to retailer and ship than mRNA vaccines, he stated. This can be a bonus when vaccinating harder-to-reach communities the place preserving finicky vaccines cool within the fridge could also be tough. However Novavax has critical disadvantages in relation to manufacturing, Kedl stated, as a result of it is not low-cost for the corporate to provide and purify the proteins. 

“mRNA vaccines skip that step as a result of they flip every particular person into their very own vaccine producer,” he stated. mRNA vaccines work by instructing our cells to make the protein themselves that can set off an immune response.

Because of this, mRNA vaccines are simpler to regulate than Novavax when a brand new variant comes alongside, Kedl stated. 

“The mRNA platform is way extra modifiable than what Novavax does,” he stated. “Each time a brand new variant vaccine must be made, Novavax goes to must do a number of work within the lab to determine which adjustments will nonetheless permit a very good protein to be made and purified at mass portions.”

Multiple vials of COVID-19 vaccine against a light blue background.

Yulia Reznikov/Getty Pictures

How efficient is Novavax?

Printed outcomes from a trial discovered that Novavax was greater than 90% efficient in opposition to symptomatic COVID-19, and 100% efficient in opposition to extreme illness and dying. However importantly, that trial was performed earlier than the omicron or delta variants had been extensively circulating. Each the delta and omicron variants — together with omicron subvariants like BA.2, BA.2.12.1 and BA.4 — are extra contagious and evade some immunity from vaccines and prior an infection.

Actual-world information evaluating the effectiveness of Novavax to different vaccines would not exist but. Per the World Well being Group, “It’s not possible to check vaccines face to face as a result of completely different approaches taken in designing the respective research.” 

When will Novavax be accessible? 

The FDA nonetheless must authorize the first sequence (the primary set of photographs, not the booster doses). Whereas it sometimes accepts its advisory committee’s suggestion, the company must assessment extra information. 

As soon as it does, a committee of specialists for the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention will vote whether or not to suggest Novavax, and for whom, after which the CDC’s director will log out the advice.

The FDA’s advisory committee is scheduled to fulfill for a public assembly on June 28 to debate future COVID-19 vaccine formulation — together with for the seemingly fall or winter COVID-19 surge. 

As soon as approved and really helpful, it is unclear how accessible, precisely, Novavax shall be in contrast with Moderna’s and Pfizer’s vaccines, that are stocked at pharmacies, clinics and docs’ places of work nationwide. The US authorities had initially deliberate to buy 110 million doses of the vaccine, The New York Occasions stories, however the US has a enough provide of COVID-19 vaccines for major doses and booster photographs. 

How will the US pay for Novavax? 

Whereas COVID-19 vaccines have been free and accessible to all People, current funding stalled in Congress and federal officers have warned we’re operating out of cash for COVID-19 checks, vaccines, therapies and associated spending. Some companies for People with out medical health insurance have already expired. 

Nevertheless, it’s seemingly COVID-19 vaccines will stay free, no less than for some time. Cash for COVID-19 testing and protecting tools is being moved round to cowl the prices of vaccines and therapy for the autumn, The New York Occasions stories. 

Can Novavax be used as a booster? 

The FDA is contemplating the authorization of Novavax as a major sequence (the primary two doses). If the FDA offers it the inexperienced gentle, it might very effectively change into an alternative choice within the US booster catalog. Final fall, the FDA signed off on the mix-and-match strategy to the approved COVID-19 boosters, or a heterologous booster dose.

As soon as there’s information on utilizing a vaccine like Novavax with mRNA vaccines, “There could also be folks that acquired three or 4 of the mRNA vaccines and is likely to be all for attempting a unique vaccine as a part of a mix-and-match technique,” Wortmann stated. 

“I feel that the true benefit of the Novavax vaccine is to the sector extra broadly,” Kedl equally stated. “As a result of it now has yet one more vaccine platform to combine and match with the opposite vaccines.”

The knowledge contained on this article is for instructional and informational functions solely and isn’t supposed as well being or medical recommendation. All the time seek the advice of a doctor or different certified well being supplier relating to any questions you’ll have a couple of medical situation or well being goals.


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