Dive Brief:

  • Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday unanimously recommended Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine for adults 18 and older following its emergency authorization by the Food and Drug Administration last week. 
  • Shortly afterward, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky endorsed the advisers recommendation, paving the way for the shot’s market rollout. Novavax’s vaccine is the first protein-based shot for COVID-19 cleared for use in the U.S.
  • The two-dose vaccine gives adults another vaccination option beyond shots from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Novovax said it is preparing to ship doses in the near future.

Dive Insight:

A year and a half after authorization of the first COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S., about 26 million to 37 million adults remain unvaccinated, according to the CDC. 

Even among the vaccinated, coronavirus variants like omicron and its derivatives continue to be a public health problem. But unvaccinated people are more likely to have serious complications and are at a much higher risk of dying from COVID-19. 

Novavax’s shot could potentially appeal to some holdouts, as it’s based on more traditional vaccine technology than the mRNA-based shots from Pfizer and Moderna. Other protein vaccines include shots for influenza, hepatitis and whooping cough. 

However, according to surveys done by the CDC, unvaccinated people are not that interested in protein vaccines for COVID-19. Of those surveyed, about half said they would “probably or definitely would not get an adjuvanted protein-based COVID-19 vaccine.” 

Health officials believe they can persuade the public that Novavax’s vaccine is another safe option. Yet problems from the initial vaccine rollout still persist, including misinformation, lack of trust in the government and concerns of side effects. 

In clinical testing, Novavax’s vaccine was strongly protective against COVID-19, but its performance against omicron is unclear as the company’s study occurred before that variant was prevalent. Adverse reactions were similar to that of the other COVID-19 vaccines, and a few cases of myocarditis — a type of heart inflammation associated in very rare instances with Pfizer’s and Moderna’s shots — were observed in clinical trials. 

As of Tuesday, the U.S. has purchased 3.2 million doses of the Novavax vaccine. The vaccine, while less familiar to providers, can be easily stored in refrigerators. 

The vaccine is administered in two doses, scheduled three to eight weeks apart.

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