US adds updated Novavax shots as fall COVID vaccine option – Maryland Daily Record

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Associated Press//October 3, 2023
US adds updated Novavax shots as fall COVID vaccine option
Novavax makes a protein-based vaccine mixed with an immune-boosting chemical, a different technology than the so-called mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna. (File photo)

By Associated Press
//October 3, 2023
//

U.S. regulators on Tuesday authorized another option for fall COVID-19 vaccination, updated shots made by Gaithersburg-based Novavax.
Updated vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna began rolling out last month, intended for adults and children as young as age 6 months. Now the Food and Drug Administration has added another choice – reformulated Novavax shots open to anyone age 12 and older.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already has urged most Americans to get a fall COVID-19 vaccination, shots tweaked to protect against a newer coronavirus strain. Novavax said shots will be available “in the coming days.”
Protection against COVID-19, whether from vaccination or from an earlier infection, wanes over time. There’s already been a late-summer increase in infections, and health officials hope enough people get the new shots to blunt a winter wave.
Novavax makes a protein-based vaccine mixed with an immune-boosting chemical, a different technology than the so-called mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.
While Pfizer and Moderna have shipped millions of doses, the fall rollout so far has been messy since, for the first time, the government isn’t buying and distributing the COVID-19 shots. Ordering confusion from drugstores and doctors’ offices, distribution delays and even bungled paperwork by insurance companies snarled early appointments.
The updated vaccine versions are supposed to be free through private insurance or Medicare, and the CDC has a program to temporarily provide free shots to the uninsured or underinsured.
The ever-evolving coronavirus isn’t going away. Similar to how flu shots are updated each year, the Food and Drug Administration gave COVID-19 vaccine makers a new recipe for this fall.
The updated shots have a single target, an omicron descendant named XBB.1.5. It’s a big change. The COVID-19 vaccines offered since last year are combination shots targeting the original coronavirus strain and a much earlier omicron version, making them very outdated.
Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax all have brewed new supplies.
The FDA will soon decide if each company has met safety, effectiveness and quality standards. Then the CDC must sign off before vaccinations begin. A CDC advisory panel is set to meet Tuesday to make recommendations on how best to use the latest shots.
Earlier this month, European regulators authorized Pfizer’s updated vaccine for this fall, for adults and children as young as 6 months.
Health officials are optimistic, barring a new mutant, the new vaccines will be effective.
As expected, XBB.1.5 has faded away in the months it took to tweak the vaccine. Today, there is a soup of different coronavirus variants causing illness and the most common ones are fairly close relatives. Recent lab testing from vaccine makers and other research groups suggest the updated shots will offer crossover protection.
Earlier vaccinations or infections have continued to help prevent severe disease and death but protection wanes over time, especially against milder infections as the virus continually evolves. While the FDA did allow seniors and others at high risk to get an extra booster dose last spring, most Americans haven’t had a vaccination in about a year.
The CDC urges a yearly flu shot for pretty much everyone ages 6 months and up. The best time is by the end of October.
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