What we know about the Novavax vaccine: Yahoo News Explains

U.S. regulators have granted emergency use authorization for a new COVID-19 vaccine developed by Novavax. Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist and a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, explains what sets this new vaccine apart from the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots and how it could combat future variants.

Video Transcript

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- The original trial showed a 90% effectiveness and there was lots of alpha in that trial. So 90.4% effectiveness to be exact. And really highly protective, even more, up to 99% against severe disease.

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We don't have Omicron specific data for Novavax, but we expect it to work as well as the mRNA vaccines, at least to protect against severe disease because it really involves the same part of the virus, which is the spike protein. Then there was another study in Jama that wasn't a trial, but during the Delta wave in India, they looked at how Novavax was working because India has a lot of vaccines. So they looked at how Novavax was working during the Delta wave, and it still provided protection for people who were exposed to Delta, the health care worker. So that was also very high, almost 90%. So it's not a trial, but it gives you a good sense that it works well against Delta.

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Novavax is different from the mRNA vaccines in that it uses this old tried and true technology of giving the actual spike protein, along with what we call a "helper," an adjuvant. And then you take that into your body and then you raise an immune response against the spike protein itself, it's the whole spike protein. Whereas remember the mRNA technology was showing you the genetic material for you the host to code for the spike protein, and then you made up the spike protein. So one more step and then you raise the immune response. So this is the actual protein. And this is very traditional, there's no live virus in it at all.

None of these vaccines for COVID that are even being dreamed up have any live virus in them. There are some people who just don't want to take the mRNA and DNA vaccines for a variety of reasons, and this just gives us this extra vaccine the rest of the world has a much broader vaccine arsenal than we do, actually. And we want this for our vaccine hesitant populations who've been waiting for a non-mRNA vaccine.

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One thing that we've seen is that when you mix vaccines, they just seem to work better than when you use the same vaccine as a booster. And it's just because even though they're all involving the spike protein, they kind of fold differently and it may be that you just get a broader antigenic response it's called. So it may be a nice booster for people who've had the mRNA vaccines and a booster.

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I think the more tools we have against COVID-19 , we can stay out of the emergency phase and just keep on making progress in our ways that we have to because we have to live with COVID. It's not going to go away. So the more technologies we have for the more tools, the better.

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