NEWS
July 25, 2022

FDA Approves Non-MRNA Novavax Vaccine For Emergency Use, Here's How it Works

FDA Approves Non-MRNA Novavax Vaccine For Emergency Use, Here's How it Works
Donald Jacobsen
By: Donald Jacobsen MSN, MBA, RN-BC (NI)

The Novavax vaccine is a new option for people looking to protect themselves from COVID-19. In the wake of confusion and hesitancy surrounding COVID-19 vaccine options, Novavax offers an innovative protein-based vaccine found to be safe and effective in clinical studies. The vaccine follows the more traditional methods of vaccine production, using an adjuvant - a substance that helps increase the effectiveness of a vaccine - to help boost the body's immune response.

Unlike mRNA vaccines, which rely on a technology to deliver the vaccine's genetic instructions, the Novavax vaccine uses lab-grown spike proteins that mimic the natural appearance of coronavirus in the body. For those unfamiliar or uncomfortable with mRNA vaccines, the Novavax vaccine may be appealing as it is similar to other protein vaccines used to prevent diseases like hepatitis B and shingles.

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Eligibility and Accessibility of the Novavax Vaccine

The Novavax vaccine is authorized for emergency use by the FDA for people aged 18 and over in the United States. Emergency FDA authorization allows the vaccine to be distributed and used before researchers thoroughly investigate it in clinical trials. However, this does not mean the vaccine is not safe or effective. The FDA only grants emergency authorization when there is a significant public health need and the vaccine's benefits outweigh the risks.

Novavax is currently being rolled out in a phased approach, with the first doses available in pharmacies and clinics in August 2022. Unfortunately, quality testing delays create supply chain issues that will limit the number of doses available in the initial rollout.

As more doses become available, the Novavax vaccine will be made more widely accessible through other vaccination channels such as hospitals, health departments, and urgent care centers.

Differences

The Novavax vaccine uses a different technology than the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. The Novavax vaccine is a protein subunit vaccine. This means that it uses proteins to stimulate an immune response, as opposed to the nucleic acid (DNA or RNA) used in the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. This difference in technology could make the Novavax vaccine more effective against variants, as it is more difficult for viruses to mutate proteins than nucleic acids.

Additionally, the Novavax vaccine does not need to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures like the mRNA vaccines, making it easier to transport and store. This ease in temperature requirements could make the vaccine more accessible in rural and remote areas where ultra-low temperature freezers are not readily available.

Similarities

Studies conducted in the US, Mexico, and Britain found that the Novavax vaccine is safe and 90% effective at preventing the symptoms of COVID-19. With the rise of the delta variant in 2021, Novavax noted that a booster dose improved the vaccine's efficacy against the new mutation. 

The most common side effects of the Novavax vaccine include,

  • Soreness
  • Tenderness
  • Redness
  • Swelling at the injection site

Some clinical trial participants reported,

  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Joint discomfort
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fever

There is also a small chance that Novavax might induce a severe allergic reaction, usually occurring within one to two hours of receiving the vaccination.

Like other COVID-19 vaccines, the Novavax vaccine requires two doses given several weeks apart. Optimal protection against the virus is achieved a week after the second dose.

Implications of the Novavax Vaccine for Healthcare

The Novavax vaccine could be a game changer for healthcare, as it offers a vaccine option for those who have been unwilling to take mRNA vaccines.  In addition, the Novavax vaccine is easier to store and transport than mRNA vaccines, making it more accessible to rural and underserved communities. Wider vaccine availability and acceptance are crucial to the fight against COVID-19, and Novavax may help in getting one step closer to ending the pandemic.

Like any vaccine, Novavax is most effective when used in combination with other public health measures. It's essential to keep in mind, however, that the Novavax vaccine is not a silver bullet. Even after getting vaccinated, it is still important to follow safety guidelines such as wearing a mask and social distancing in high-risk areas.

The Bottom Line

Vaccination is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your community from COVID-19, but it's important to remember that vaccines are not the only solution to disease prevention. It is imperative to continue to follow safety guidelines such as wearing a mask and social distancing in high-risk areas even after getting vaccinated,

The Novavax vaccine is a safe and effective option for preventing COVID-19 and may be more widely accepted by those unwilling to take an mRNA vaccine. The vaccine is 90% effective at preventing the symptoms of COVID-19 and is particularly effective against variants.

For more information on the Novavax vaccine, consult your physician or primary healthcare provider.

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