In this context, the success of the Novavax vaccine should be A1 news. The recent results confirm that it has roughly the same efficacy as the two authorized mRNA vaccines, with the added benefit of being based on an older, more familiar science. The protein-subunit approach used by Novavax was first implemented for the hepatitis B vaccine, which has been used in the U.S. since 1986. The pertussis vaccine, which is required for almost all children in U.S. public schools, is also made this way. Some of those people who have been wary of getting the mRNA vaccines may find Novavax more appealing.
The Novavax vaccine also has a substantially lower rate of side effects than the authorized mRNA vaccines. Last week’s data showed that about 40 percent of people who receive Novavax report fatigue after the second dose, as compared with 65 percent for Moderna and more than 55 percent for Pfizer. Based on the results of Novavax’s first efficacy trial in the U.K., side effects (including but not limited to fatigue) aren’t just less frequent; they’re milder too. That’s a very big deal for people on hourly wages, who already bear a disproportionate risk of getting COVID-19, and who have been less likely to get vaccinated in part because of the risk of losing days of work to post-vaccine fever, pain, or malaise. Side effects are a big barrier for COVID-vaccine acceptance. The CDC reported on Monday that, according to a survey conducted in the spring, only about half of adults under the age of 40 have gotten the vaccine or definitely intend to do so, and that, among the rest, 56 percent say they are concerned about side effects. Lower rates of adverse events are likely to be a bigger issue still for parents, when considering vaccination for their children.