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Ask Dr. Nandi: FDA approves Novavax's updated COVID-19 vaccine

Novavax vaccine
Posted at 4:17 PM, Oct 04, 2023

(WXYZ) — In today’s Health Alert, another COVID-19 vaccine has been approved by the FDA. Novavax’s updated shot is a more traditional vaccine and provides an option to mRNA vaccines.

Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine uses mRNA technology. This teaches the cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response against COVID-19. Whereas with the Novavax vaccine, the spike protein is already premade, and the shot also contains an additive that helps rev up the immune response.

Now, protein-based technology has been around for a long time. Other vaccines that use this type include hepatitis B, HPV, and tetanus toxoid. That’s not to say that mRNA vaccines lack credibility. The technology platform is certainly new to the public, but the research has been around since the early 1990s.

As for which vaccine works best, I don’t think there’s much difference between them. They all provide good responses and target the XBB Omicron subvariants. However, when it comes to side effects like pain and muscle aches, Novavax is reported to have fewer. And overall, protein-based vaccines tend not to have serious side effects.

People aged 12 and up who were previously vaccinated but have not received an mRNA shot are eligible for the Novavax shot. Also, those who are unvaccinated can get two doses.

As for CDC approval, it's already been granted. The agency's advisory committee had voted in favor of recommending updated monovalent vaccines targeting XBB, as authorized or approved by the FDA. This may seem unusual, but the advisory committee had already reviewed Novavax's latest data during a meeting held in September. That means that the protein-based vaccine should be available soon. The company says it has millions of doses ready to go and will ship to pharmacies and healthcare providers in the coming days.

Once again, I want to emphasize the importance of getting vaccinated. COVID infections and hospitalizations are rising. I expect numbers to continue to increase as we enter the colder winter months when more people spend time indoors. Remember, COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in preventing the most severe outcomes if you get infected. And they do not contain any live virus and cannot cause an infection. The best time to get an updated shot that will help protect against the current circulating variants is now. I’ll be getting mine this Friday.