Novavax becomes fourth COVID-19 vaccine authorized by FDA

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Update 7/28: Novavax is available in Oregon.

Row of Coronavirus vaccine flasks.

Yesterday, July 13, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized for emergency use the COVID-19 vaccine Novavax for adults age 18 and older. The Novavax vaccine is different from the other three vaccines available in the United States. It does not use mRNA technology (Moderna and Pfizer), and it is not a vector vaccine (Johnson & Johnson). It uses a more traditional protein technology, used for years in vaccines for shingles, hepatitis B and the flu. The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine has been approved and available in other countries since November 2021.

A primary series of Novavax includes two doses administered three weeks apart.

“This provides another safe option for protecting yourself against COVID-19,” said Dr. Paul Cieslak, medical director for communicable diseases and immunizations at Oregon Health Authority. “Some people may prefer a vaccine like this that uses a more traditional technology.”

Clinical trials in 2021 showed that a two-dose series of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine was:

  • 90.4% effective at preventing any COVID-19 illness in all adults, and 100% effective in preventing moderate or severe COVID-19 illness
  • 78.6% effective at preventing mild, moderate or severe COVID-19 illness in people age 65 and older.

The trial occurred last summer and fall, before the Omicron variant arrived.

There are a few more steps before the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine may be available in Oregon.

infographic explaining the COVID-19 approval process in Oregon

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is expected to meet July 19 and make a recommendation. If the CDC recommends the COVID-19 Novavax vaccine, the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup will meet that evening to review and consider whether to endorse the recommendation.

If the approval process passes these stages, then Oregon Governor Kate Brown, with the guidance of health experts, makes the final decision for the state.   

“COVID-19 is circulating briskly in Oregon right now,” said Cieslak. “Those who are vaccinated are still less likely to end up in the hospital with it, so we continue to recommend vaccinations strongly.”