Novavax COVID Vaccine Available to Help Reach Patients Hesitant About mRNA Vaccines
By Sean Price

The recently introduced COVID-19 vaccine Novavax gives physicians another tool for combating the disease, and it enjoys two important differences from previous vaccines that are potential advantages, says San Antonio infectious disease specialist Charles Lerner, MD, a member of the Texas Medical Association’s COVID-19 Task Force.  

The biggest difference between Novavax and the first two vaccines used in the U.S. – produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – is that Novavax was invented using traditional vaccine technology, Dr. Lerner says.  

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were the first publicly available vaccines in history based on mRNA technology, and they quickly became the subject of myths and misunderstandings. Those myths included incorrect stories that the vaccines amount to gene therapy or genetic engineering.   

“[Novavax] is a traditional vaccine made against proteins just like flu vaccine or tetanus vaccine,” Dr. Lerner said. “People who have an irrational fear of mRNA vaccines might be persuaded – and the operational word here is ‘might’ – to take this vaccine.”  

Texas’ COVID vaccination rate remains low. As of this writing, 62.44% of Texans 6 months and older have completed their primary series of vaccines, and only 25% have received at least one booster, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.   

Novavax’s second major difference is tied to the first, Dr. Lerner says. The mRNA vaccines use just the top of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID. But Novavax uses the entire spike protein.   

Because the base of the spike protein does not mutate as much as the top, a vaccine based on it might – and, again, this is a big “might” – protect against the numerous variants of COVID that have emerged and become dominant in the U.S., he says.  

“Theoretically, it could have broader protection against different strains,” Dr. Lerner said. “But that’s theoretical because it hasn’t been measured.”  

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization in July for Novavax to be used for adults 18 years and older and then in August expanded that to patients 12 years and older. It is available as a two-dose series and is not yet authorized as a booster dose.   

Physicians who would like to offer Novavax can access it through the DSHS Vaccine Allocation & Ordering System. If you are not signed up, more information can be found on DSHS’ COVID-19 Vaccine Management Resources webpage.  

To learn more about storage, handling, and clinical considerations, review FDA’s Factsheet for Health Care Providers Administering Vaccine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Interim Clinical Considerations for COVID-19 Vaccines.  

Last Updated On

July 17, 2023

Originally Published On

September 06, 2022