COVID Vaccines Advised for Fall Will Include a Newer Option: Novavax


      Novavax utilizes proteins rather than messenger RNA to stimulate the immune system.

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       On June 27 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that all Americans age 6 months and older get an updated 2024–2025 COVID-19 vaccine this fall to protect against potentially serious complications from the virus.

Among the choices Americans will likely see at the pharmacy, doctor’s office, or community clinic are shots by Pfizer and Moderna as well as a newer vaccine from an American biotech company called Novavax. The Novavax shot is currently authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for people 12 and up. 

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are based on messenger RNA — genetic material that sends a message to human cells with instructions to produce a protein that helps prevent infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

 Novavax is a protein-based vaccine, a traditional vaccine technology that has long been used to immunize people against shinglesDTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis), and other diseases. 

“Novavax is made of proteins that resemble proteins in the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” says Taia T. Wang, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of medicine and of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University in California. “Those proteins are processed by the body to stimulate the production of B and T cell responses that can fight off the virus.”

Who Should Opt for Novavax?

Peter Chin-Hong, MD, an infectious-disease specialist affiliated with UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco, says that although the Novavax shot has not yet been widely used, it is a highly effective choice that may help improve vaccination rates.

“People who have had severe side effects from mRNA vaccines — like myocarditis [inflammation of the heart] — often do very well with Novavax because it is a different compound and type of vaccine,” says Dr. Chin-Hong. “Also, people who are worried about the ‘newness’ of mRNA vaccines may opt to use a more traditionally made vaccine like Novavax.” 

He adds that some people may avoid mRNA shots because of a myth that these vaccines alter cells’ DNA. “This is not true, as the vaccine mRNA gets destroyed by the body after the message is read,” says Chin-Hong.

All the authorized COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to offer strong protection against complications from infection that can lead to serious illness, hospitalization, and death.

How Have This Fall’s COVID Vaccines Been Updated?

Similar to the influenza virus, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 mutates, and updated shots from all the major vaccine producers are intended to better target the most recently circulating virus strains. 

Earlier this month, the FDA urged manufacturers to adjust their vaccine formulas to protect against the JN.1 lineage of the virus and, if feasible, specifically target the KP.2 strain, an offshoot of JN.1.

An updated 2024–2025 COVID-19 vaccine can restore and increase protection against the virus variants, according to the CDC. Vaccination also reduces the odds of experiencing long COVID, which can cause new or recurring symptoms for months or even years.

What Do COVID Shots Cost Now?

The CDC’s Bridge Access Program, which currently provides free COVID-19 shots to adults without health insurance and adults whose insurance does not cover all COVID-19 vaccine costs, is scheduled to end in August.

 For anyone paying out of pocket, the retail price of a COVID vaccine is $190 at CVS.

But a Novavax representative told Everyday Health that most people should be able to access the different COVID vaccines through insurance or additional assistance programs.

If you need help finding a vaccine near you, check the federal government website