Another COVID-19 vaccine has just been approved for use in the United States — and this one is more like the vaccines Americans are used to.
Novavax, first authorized for use in Indonesia late last year and now available in some 40 countries, is a more traditional type of vaccine compared to the Pfizer or Moderna shots developed in 2020 that utilized new mRNA technology that skeptics have falsely claimed could alter DNA and be unsafe.
The Food and Drug Administration and now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have authorized Novavax for anyone 18 and older in the United States who is still not vaccinated against the coronavirus, and doses should be available as soon as next week.
It’s not clear if the new vaccine — which relies on copies of COVID-19’s spike protein to spur an immune response rather than teaching cells how to make the protein — will appeal to the more than 20% of Americans who have not gotten even a single dose of vaccine.
In Utah, that number is nearly 30%, but Rich Lakin, immunization director for the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, said it’s too soon to tell how much interest there will be in Novavax in Utah. He said the state likely won’t be able to order the vaccine until Monday and it will take two days or so for it to start arriving.
“It’s a traditional vaccine, which a lot of people are more comfortable with. This is a great alternative to the mRNA if that’s what you choose not to get,” Lakin said, noting that Novavax also is “late to game,” coming some 17 months after the most recent vaccine approved for use in the U.S., the single-dose Johnson & Johnson.
While the Johnson & Johnson shot is also a traditional type of vaccine, the CDC stopped recommending it for most people — including as a booster shot — late last year because of the risk of developing rare but serious blood clots.
No booster dose of Novavax has been approved, but Lakin said because the two doses of the vaccine can be given between three and eight weeks apart, someone in good health getting their first shot now could wait the full two months for the second to be protected against severe disease in the fall, when new subvariants may show up.
Utah, like much of the rest of the country, is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases as a result of the omicron subvariant known as BA.5 that is more adept at infecting people who are fully vaccinated and boosted or even who have had the virus recently.
That may prompt some unvaccinated Utahns to finally get the shots, especially since there’s now a fourth vaccine they may be more comfortable with, Lakin said.
“The mRNA vaccine is a great vaccine, whether it’s Pfizer or Moderna. But some people may be hesitant because when they hear new technology, they just want to wait and see how that vaccine performs,” he said, calling Novavax the “perfect option.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to the name of the new COVID-19 vaccine as Novamax. It is Novavax.