Is the Newly Approved Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine Better Than Moderna?

Rachel Curry - Author
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Jul. 14 2022, Published 1:34 p.m. ET

The FDA has granted authorization for the Novavax Inc. (NVAX) COVID-19 vaccine. The move gives Americans another choice when it comes to getting vaccinated.

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Here’s how Novavax compares to Moderna — plus how to find the Novavax vaccine now that it’s approved in the U.S.

The FDA has granted emergency use authorization for the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine.

On Wednesday, July 13, the FDA granted emergency use authorization for the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine for individuals ages 18 and older. Novavax was previously approved in countries like the U.K., Canada, Germany, and Australia.

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FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D. said in a statement, “Today’s authorization offers adults in the United States who have not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine another option that meets the FDA’s rigorous standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality needed to support emergency use authorization.”

Meanwhile, the European Union just reported severe allergic reactions in response to Novavax. NVAX stockholders dumped on the news, which caused the shares to fall nearly 27 percent by 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 14. NVAX stock is prone to volatility.

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Novavax vs. Moderna: Here's how the vaccines compare.

Moderna is an mRNA vaccine that “sends the body’s cells instructions for making a spike protein that will train the immune system to recognize it. The immune system will then attack the spike protein the next time it sees one,” according to Yale Medicine.

The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine is unique in that producers create it in insect cells and combine it with adjuvant, an immune-boosting protein. Yale scientists say, “It contains the spike protein of the coronavirus itself, but formulated as a nanoparticle, which can't cause disease. When the vaccine is injected, this stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies and T-cell immune responses.”

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In regards to efficacy, Novavax is 90-percent effective against confirmed, symptomatic infection and 100-percent effective against moderate-to-severe cases, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. This is comparable to Moderna’s 95-percent efficacy.

The side effects are similar as well. Novavax may result in injection site tenderness, muscle pain, headache, fatigue, and in rare instances myocarditis (swelling of the heart wall’s middle layer) and pericarditis (swelling of the heart’s external membrane).

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Moderna also showed serious but rare side effects, including anaphylaxis. Most commonly, people experienced chills, fever, nausea, muscle pain, fatigue, and headache.

The EU’s recent report of the Novavax vaccine’s potential to cause severe allergic reactions adds a layer of uncertainty to the new vaccine option for Americans who have yet to try it. However, studies show a similar risk between Novavax and Moderna.

You can find the Novavax vaccine availability online.

Just ahead of the FDA’s Novavax authorization, the White House secured 3.2 million doses of the two-dose regimen. To find a Novavax vaccine site near you, visit your state’s COVID-19 vaccine online portal, which you can find at Vaccines.gov. As of July 14, Novavax isn't an option on the list of possible vaccines and boosters yet, but the portal will update soon to include the newly approved vaccine.

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