US adults who have not received a COVID-19 vaccine should consider Novavax, a more traditional type of vaccine, according to government advisories.
Regulators last week authorized the first of the so-called protein vaccines against COVID-19, but Novavax’s doses cannot be distributed until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the vaccine be used .
A CDC advisory panel unanimously recommended the option on Tuesday, with the final action coming from the agency’s director.
So far, most Americans have received their first dose of one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines, but CDC officials said between 26 million and 37 million adults have received no doses. That will be the population to which Novavax will be directed, at least for now.
“We really have to focus on that population,” said Dr. Oliver Brooks, CDC advisor and former president of the National Medical Association. Hopefully, the vaccine will “take them from not being vaccinated to being vaccinated,” he said.
While it’s not clear how many will agree to the more traditional option, “I’m very optimistic about this vaccine,” said Dr. Pablo Sanchez, another advisor at The Ohio State University.
All of the COVID-19 vaccines used in the United States train the body to fight the coronavirus by helping it recognize its outer covering: the spike protein, and the first three options licensed in the country to cells in a makeshift vaccine factory change. , Vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna provide the body with genetic instructions to make copies of the spike protein. Johnson & Johnson uses a cold virus to deliver those instructions.
In contrast, the Novavax vaccine injects copies of spike proteins that are grown in a lab and packaged into nanoparticles, similar to a virus for the immune system. Another difference: An ingredient called adjuvant, made from the bark of a South American tree, is added to help speed up the immune response.
Protein vaccines have been used for years to prevent hepatitis B and other diseases such as shingles.
How well does it work?
Large-scale studies in the United States, Mexico and Great Britain found that two doses of the Novavax vaccine are safe and 90% effective in preventing symptoms of COVID-19. When the Delta version came out last year, Novavax reported that a booster dose stimulated virus-fighting antibodies that could tackle that version.
Typical reactions to the vaccine were mild, including arm pain and fatigue, but regulators warned of the potential for an unusual risk, heart inflammation, which has also been seen with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and the majority of cases are young. . Male.
But manufacturing problems delayed the arrival of the Novavax vaccine, meaning it was studied long before the Omicron version appeared, so it’s unclear at the moment how it would respond to this elusive version for the immune system.
Still, Novavax points to laboratory tests showing that the first two vaccines stimulate the production of virus-fighting antibodies that are cross-protective against Omicron, including the BA.5 subvariant, which currently in the United States is at greatest risk. , A booster dose further increases the cross-protective antibodies.
How to use Novavax Vaccines?
CDC advisors unanimously endorsed the two-dose primary series. But many said it was important for regulators to authorize a booster dose for as long as Novavax recipients need it, about five months after the last dose.
Similarly, two doses are given at intervals of about three weeks. But CDC officials noted that, as with other COVID-19 vaccines, it’s possible to wait up to eight weeks for a second dose, except in high-risk people who need protection early.
What happens after?
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Valensky should endorse the advisory panel’s recommendations for adults to receive the first two doses of Novavax. In its first purchase, the US government purchased 3.2 million doses.
The Novavax vaccine is also used in Europe, Canada, Australia, South Korea, and other countries. Many allow booster doses, and European regulators recently authorized the administration of these vaccines from 12 years old.
The Maryland-based company also hopes to license booster doses and administer the vaccine to youth in the United States soon.
And like other vaccine developers, Novavax is testing its updated dosage regimen for the new Omicron sub-variant, in anticipation of another round of booster doses later in the year.