Each week, OMRF Vice President of Research Dr. Rod McEver opens “Adam’s Journal” to answer a medical question from Adam Cohen, OMRF’s senior vice president & general counsel.
The Food and Drug Administration recently approved another Covid-19 vaccine. What makes this shot different than the others, how effective is it, and should those who are eligible for a booster consider it?
Dr. McEver Prescribes
In July, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for a Covid-19 vaccine developed by Novavax. Like the three other vaccines authorized in the U.S., Novavax’s teaches the body to fight the coronavirus by recognizing the spike protein it uses to enter our cells.
Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines rely on a novel technology known as messenger RNA (or mRNA) to deliver genetic instructions for the body to make copies of the spike protein. The Johnson & Johnson shot uses a cold virus to deliver those instructions. Novavax’s vaccine is an injection of the spike protein itself, plus a compound used to boost the body’s immune response called an adjuvant.
Adjuvant vaccines date back to the 1930s, and the adjuvant used in the Novavax shot is like the one in the newest shingles vaccine, Shingrix. Although the technologies used in the other coronavirus vaccines have proven safe and effective, this “traditional” Novavax technology offers another alternative that’s been shown to be safe and effective in clinical trials to the more than 26 million American adults who have so far remained unvaccinated.
However, the Novavax shot has only been approved as a primary vaccination series. As of now, it hasn’t been authorized as a booster.
Large studies completed before the emergence of the delta and omicron variants found two doses of Novavax’s vaccine about 90% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19. While it’s less clear just how well the shots, which are already in use worldwide, will prevent infection by today’s immune-evading variants, for those who are unvaccinated, they will nonetheless provide critical protection from severe illness and death.
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