What to Know About the Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine

In July 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine for Americans ages 18 and older. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended the vaccine for use.

Novavax’s vaccine is the fourth COVID-19 vaccine authorized or approved for use in the U.S. It is a vaccine that works like many vaccines that prevent other types of infections. Protein-based vaccines like the Novavax vaccine have been used across the world against many diseases for decades.

This vaccine provides yet another option for vaccination against COVID-19. It is currently only authorized as a primary vaccine, not as a booster.

Vaccination can help slow the spread of COVID-19. That’s especially important as SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, continues to mutate.

Here’s what to know about the Novavax vaccine.

How Does the Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine Work?

Like other available COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen, the Novavax vaccine prepares your immune system to recognize and control COVID-19. It uses a traditional method of showing your immune system one protein from the virus.

This vaccine injects a synthetic version of the coronavirus’ spike protein, along with an “adjuvant” — an ingredient that boosts the immune system. Your immune system then builds antibodies to the spike protein, which can help prevent infection.

Scientists created the synthetic version of the spike protein in the lab. It contains no genetic material and cannot cause disease.

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Does the Novavax Vaccine Work Against COVID-19?

The Novavax vaccine was 90.4% effective in preventing mild, moderate, or severe COVID-19 in adults over 18 during clinical trials, the FDA reported.

While the clinical trials took place before the emergence of the Delta and Omicron variants, scientists and the FDA are confident the vaccine will still be effective against COVID-19 today.

Is the Novavax Vaccine Safe?

According to the FDA, the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine met the safety requirements for emergency use authorization.

The vaccine is safe, with common side effects including:

  • Injection site pain, redness, and swelling.
  • Fatigue.
  • Muscle/joint pain.
  • Headache.
  • Nausea/vomiting.
  • Fever.

These side effects are common for many vaccines and usually fade within a day or two.

The Novavax vaccine has been linked to myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the tissue surrounding the heart). However, these cases are rare. The FDA says if you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart after vaccination, you should call your doctor.

The vaccine is safe overall, and the CDC recommends it for use in people over 18. The vaccine has been available in other countries — including many European countries, Canada, Australia, South Korea, and more — for months, with no major safety concerns.

How Many Doses Are in the Novavax Vaccine?

The Novavax vaccine consists of two doses, delivered at least three weeks apart.

People who receive the Novavax vaccine may require a booster. The FDA has not yet authorized a Novavax booster but may consider it later.

Who Can Get the Novavax Vaccine?

Americans ages 18 and older are eligible for the Novavax vaccine. As of July 2022, the CDC estimates between 26 million and 37 million American adults have not received a COVID-19 vaccine. Those people are eligible for the Novavax vaccine.

“We have expanded the options available to adults in the U.S. by recommending another safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD.

“If you have been waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine built on a different technology than those previously available, now is the time to join the millions of Americans who have been vaccinated. With COVID-19 cases on the rise again across parts of the country, vaccination is critical to help protect against the complications of severe COVID-19 disease.”

The CDC recommends all eligible Americans get vaccinated with one of the available COVID-19 vaccines.

UPMC and the Novavax Vaccine

UPMC is expecting to receive doses of the Novavax vaccine. We will make doses available to our communities as soon as they are received.

At UPMC, we recommend vaccination with any of the available COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccination is crucial to limit the spread of COVID-19. Americans ages 6 months and up are eligible for vaccination with at least one of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines.

To schedule a vaccination appointment at UPMC, call 844-876-2822 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Or, you can schedule a vaccine appointment online by visiting our website.

American Medical Association, What Sets Apart Novavax Option from Other COVID-19 Vaccines. Link

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC Recommends Novavax's COVID-19 Vaccine for Adults. Link

Food and Drug Administration, Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes Emergency Use of Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine, Adjuvanted. Link

NPR, The CDC Endorses Novavax, a More Traditional COVID Vaccine, for Adults. Link

Rebecca Robbins and Carl Zimmer, The New York Times, Novavax's Latecomer COVID-19 Vaccine Gets U.S. Authorization. Link

About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.