Health

CDC approves more traditional Novavax COVID vaccine for adults

How well does it work

Large studies in the US, Mexico, and the UK showed that two doses of the Novavax vaccine were safe and about 90% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19. When the delta variant appeared last summer, Novavax reported that a booster dose activated virus-fighting antibodies that could fight this mutant.

Typical vaccine reactions were mild, including arm pain and fatigue, but regulators warned of the possibility of a rare risk, heart inflammation, which has also been seen with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, mostly in teenage boys or young men.

But early on, manufacturing issues delayed the release of the Novavax vaccine — meaning the vaccines were studied long before the omicron variant, so it’s not clear how well they do against the immune-evading mutant.

However, Novavax points to lab tests that show the first two injections do stimulate the production of virus-fighting antibodies that provide cross-protection against omicrons, including the BA.5 subtype, which is currently the top threat in the country. The booster dose further activated cross-protective antibodies.

How to use Novavax vaccinations

Advisers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) unanimously supported the primary series of two shots. But some pointed out that it was important for regulators to allow a booster by the time, five or so months after the last dose, that Novavax recipients needed it.

In addition, two doses are usually administered three weeks apart. But CDC officials said that, as with other COVID-19 vaccines, a second dose could be expected for up to eight weeks, except for people at the highest risk who need rapid protection.

What happens next

Walensky has signed recommendations for adults to get their first two doses of Novavax. In the first purchase, the US government purchased 3.2 million doses and vaccination is expected to begin in the next few weeks.

The Novavax vaccine is also used in Europe, Canada, Australia, South Korea and other countries. Many allow booster doses, and European regulators recently allowed vaccinations at 12 years of age.

The Maryland-based company also expects U.S. approval for a booster dose and teen vaccinations to follow fairly soon.

And like other vaccine makers, Novavax is testing updated shots to better match the latest omicron subtypes, in anticipation of another round of boosters this fall and winter.

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