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CDC advisers recommend Novavax COVID-19 vaccine for adults

Armin Kübelbeck / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Novavax

By Jacqueline Howard, CNN

Vaccine advisers to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted 12-0 Tuesday to recommend Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine for use as a two-dose primary series in adults.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices convened to discuss coverage of COVID-19 vaccines in the United States in general, as well as available data and evidence on the use of Novavax’s vaccine in adults.

Next, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky will consider the recommendation and decide whether to sign off. If she approves, shots can be given.

Earlier this month, the US Food and Drug Administration authorized Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in adults. It is the fourth coronavirus vaccine available in the United States, and it uses a different type of vaccine technology than the other shots.

Novavax’s vaccine is made using small laboratory-built pieces of the coronavirus to stimulate immunity. Overall, the vaccine relies on recombinant nanoparticle technology and Novavax’s adjuvant, called Matrix-M, to stimulate an immune response and high levels of neutralizing antibodies.

This protein-based approach is a more traditional one for vaccine development than the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

Protein-based vaccines like Novavax’s work by getting the body’s immune system to recognize little modified pieces of the virus it’s targeting. In this case, that means pieces of the coronavirus spike protein.

When the genetic sequence for the virus that causes COVID-19 was published, scientists around the world quickly identified it as a coronavirus because of the “spike proteins” on its surface. These spikes form large protrusions, giving coronaviruses the appearance of wearing crowns, and “corona” is the Latin word for “crown.”

Novavax scientists identified the gene for the spike protein and created a modified version of that gene. The researchers cloned the genes into a baculovirus that infects insects. They then infected moth cells — specifically, cells from the fall armyworm — prompting them to produce the coronavirus spike protein. These virus-like nanoparticles were harvested to make Novavax’s vaccine.

As of Monday, about two-thirds of the US population, 67%, is fully vaccinated with at least their initial series of COVID-19 vaccine. But less than a third, 32%, of the population has received a booster dose of vaccine.

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