Some people have claimed that the Novavax vaccine used a new type of technology that hasn’t been proven safe based on past use. This is false. MedPage Today explains:
Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate could be the first authorized or approved in the U.S. to rely on a “tried and true” method for immunizing people against coronavirus.
This purified protein, or protein subunit, vaccine strategy is used in many other vaccines on the market today — so does it have a role to play in easing hesitancy to COVID vaccines?
Experts in public health, infectious diseases, and vaccinology interviewed by MedPage Today said that while there are some notable caveats, it’s certainly possible that having the option could help, and that they’d welcome anything that would get more people rolling up their sleeves.
For Novavax’s protein subunit vaccine candidate (known as NVX-CoV2373), spike protein is made by infecting cultures of insect (Spodoptera frugiperda) cells with a baculovirus that’s been altered to contain genes for making the spike. The cells then churn out spike proteins, which are purified and mixed with an adjuvant to make the vaccine.
The Novavax candidate contains the “Matrix-M” adjuvant, which is composed of the plant-derived glycoside saponin, cholesterol, and phospholipids.
Paul Offit, MD, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said this is the exact same technology used in the Flublok influenza vaccine, and is similar to other purified protein vaccines that have been around for a long time, like the hepatitis B vaccine.
Other COVID-19 vaccines using more traditional technology are in development or in use in other countries, though it’s not clear they’ll become available in the U.S.
William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, said there could be an advantage in the emotional appeal of a vaccine strategy with an apparent track record.
“Psychologists tell us that facts are essential, but what changes behavior is how people feel about something,” Schaffner told MedPage Today. “They have to feel comfortable and reassured. … Anything that will persuade some people to make them feel more comfortable in accepting a vaccine is something I endorse.”