CDC endorses Novavax vaccine against COVID-19

American adults who haven’t received a COVID-19 vaccine should consider Novavax, a more traditional type of vaccine, U.S. health officials said Tuesday.

Regulators authorized the first of the so-called protein vaccines against COVID-19 last week, but the last obstacle was the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC for its acronym in English).

“If you’ve been waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine built on different technology than previously available, now is the time to join the millions of Americans who have been vaccinated,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, endorsing an earlier decision by an advisory panel.

So far, most Americans have received at least their first doses of one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines, but CDC officials said between 26 million and 37 million adults have not received any doses. . That would be the population for which Novavax would be directed, at least for now.

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“We really have to focus on that population,” said Dr. Oliver Brooks, an adviser to the CDC and former president of the National Medical Association. Hopefully, the vaccine will “go from being unvaccinated to being vaccinated,” he added.

While it’s not clear how many will be persuaded by a more conventional option, “I’m very optimistic about this vaccine,” said another adviser, Dr. Pablo Sanchez of The Ohio State University.

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THE NOVAVAX DIFFERENCE

All COVID-19 vaccines used in the United States train the body to fight the coronavirus by helping it recognize its outer shell: the spike protein, and the first three options licensed in the country turn cells into a temporary vaccine factory. . Vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna provide genetic instructions for the body to make copies of the spike protein. Johnson & Johnson uses a cold virus to deliver those instructions.

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In contrast, the Novavax vaccine injects copies of the spike protein that are grown in a laboratory and packaged into nanoparticles that, to the immune system, resemble a virus. Another difference: An ingredient called adjuvant, which is made from the bark of a South American tree, is added to help speed up the immune response.

Protein vaccines have been used for years to prevent other diseases, such as hepatitis B and herpes.

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HOW WELL DOES IT WORK?

Large-scale studies conducted in the United States, Mexico and Great Britain found that two doses of the Novavax vaccine are safe and 90% effective in preventing symptoms of COVID-19. When the delta variant emerged last year, Novavax reported that a booster dose stimulated virus-fighting antibodies that could tackle that variant.

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Typical reactions to the vaccine were mild, including arm pain and fatigue, but regulators warned of a rare risk: inflammation of the heart, which has also been seen with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and most cases have been of young men.

But manufacturing problems delayed the arrival of the Novavax vaccine, which means that it was studied long before the omicron variant appeared, so at the moment it is not clear how it will respond to this elusive variant for the immune system.

Still, Novavax points to lab tests showing that the first two doses stimulate the production of virus-fighting antibodies that are cross-protective against omicron, including the BA.5 subvariant, which is currently the top threat in the United States. . A booster dose further increases cross-protective antibodies.

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HOW TO USE NOVAVAX VACCINES?

CDC advisors unanimously endorsed the two-dose primary series. But several said it was important for regulators to authorize a booster dose by the time Novavax recipients needed it, about five months after the last dose.

Similarly, the two doses are given about three weeks apart. But CDC officials noted that, as with other COVID-19 vaccines, it’s possible to wait up to eight weeks for the second dose, except for people at higher risk who need protection quickly.

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WHAT HAPPENS AFTER?

Walensky endorsed recommendations that adults receive the first two doses of Novavax. In its first purchase, the US government purchased 3.2 million doses, and administration is expected to begin in the coming weeks.

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The Novavax vaccine is also used in Europe, Canada, Australia, South Korea, and other countries. Many allow booster doses, and European regulators recently authorized the administration of these vaccines from the age of 12.

The Maryland-based company also hopes a booster dose and administration of the vaccine to young people will soon be licensed in the United States.

And like other vaccine developers, Novavax is testing its updated doses to better suit the new omicron sub-variants, in anticipation of another round of booster doses later in the year.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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