Australia recently had its fourth COVID-19 vaccine approved for provisional use. While Novavax (aka NUVAXOVID) comes a bit later than the other vaccines it’s still a major step in Australia’s fight against the virus and there are a few reasons it shouldn’t be forgotten.
Novavax: What is it?
Novavax is a vaccine designed to immunise us against COVID-19. As a protein vaccine, it differs slightly from both Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines and the AstraZeneca vaccine.
As Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) explains, protein vaccines use a non-infectious portion of the virus to help activate our cells to fight the new infection.
Protein vaccines use a non-infectious component found on the surface of the coronavirus and are manufactured in cells in a laboratory. After vaccination, immune cells recognise the vaccine protein as foreign and launch an immune response against it.
This is the first protein COVID-19 vaccine to receive regulatory approval in Australia.
Trials of the vaccine found it had 90 per cent efficacy against symptomatic infections of COVID-19. Although it should be noted these trials took place before the spread of the Omicron variant.
Who can get this vaccine?
Currently, Novavax is only approved for primary vaccinations for those over 18 years of age.
This means only people who haven’t already received a course of COVID-19 vaccination can get Novavax. It is not approved as a booster shot.
Like the other COVID-19 vaccines, it is administered in two doses spaced at least three weeks apart.
With Australia’s vaccination rates already high it may seem strange that another vaccine has been approved so late in the game. Health Minister Greg Hunt acknowledged that this approval should hopefully encourage the unvaccinated population to come forward.
“Obviously we have a first dose national vaccination rate of 95.2 per cent. And we know that some people have waited for Novavax, and although we’ve encouraged everyone to proceed, we recognise that that’s a fact.”
“So hopefully this will encourage those people in that less than last 5 per cent to come forward. We want to have as many people come forward to be vaccinated.”
Are there side effects?
Phase 3 trials of the Novavax vaccine found that side effects were generally mild to moderate and short in duration.
Symptoms commonly include pain and tenderness at the injection site, fatigue, headache and muscle pain.
When can you get Novavax in Australia?
In January 2021, Australia purchased 51 million doses of the Novavax vaccine. Now it seems that purchase is finally paying off with the first shipment expected in the next month.
On Monday, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) gave the final approval on the vaccine, with Hunt confirming Novavax will be made available in GPs and pharmacies that choose to order it from February 21.
“We have received the second green light from ATAGI in relation to the Novavax vaccine … we will be able to commence that program in the week of 21st of February,” he said.
The “double green light” means that stocks will be released and the TGA will then move through a batch testing process, to make sure the vaccines are good to go.
If you’re yet to get a COVID-19 vaccine (it’s best to get jabbed as soon as possible) you can find the booking website here. We also have information on booster vaccines if it’s time for your third jab.
This article has been updated since it was first published.