How the Novavax COVID vaccine differs from Pfizer, Moderna vaccines

How the Novavax COVID vaccine differs from Pfizer, Moderna vaccines
Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 10:05 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2022 at 12:23 AM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - The CDC signed off on the Novavax COVID vaccine for adults, a traditional protein-based vaccine.

When the mRNA vaccines rolled out, many were skeptical and said they were new and unfamiliar. The Novavax vaccine is similar to the vaccines most people get on a regular basis.

“It’s a really small price to pay to have a sore arm for a day or two to avoid being ill,” said Bev Levy about getting the COVID vaccine. “A good friend, whose mother did not get the shot and ended up in the hospital for six months. She did survive, but she ended up with a lot of health problems.”

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According to Dr. Michael Zaroukian, the Novavax vaccine is similar to many of the vaccines most people are familiar with.

“Like a tetanus immunization would be against a protein that is used for this, some of the components of a flu vaccine and others like that,” Zaroukian said.

Zaroukian, with Sparrow Health System, said the difference between the mRNA vaccines -- like Pfizer and Moderna -- versus the Novavax is all in the process. The mRNA vaccines force your body to build the spike protein, whereas the Novavax immunization skips that step and gives the spike protein up front. That’s why the CDC said it’s OK for those who have previously gotten the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines to get Novavax if they feel inclined.

“They’re all very similar. It’s still the same spike protein whether it’s given by Novavax and its vaccination or created through the body’s process of translating the mRNA virus vaccine into the protein, they still end up with the same protein essentially,” Zaroukian said. “That’s why it’s considered to be medically reasonably appropriate to get one and then the other.”

Whether you understand the science or not, Levy said it’s a good conversation to have with your doctor.

“My message is to look up as much information as you can about it. If you’re really worried, ask your doctor,” Levy said. “Medical science has gotten us pretty far considering this was something really brand new.”

Zaroukian said the Novavax vaccine isn’t necessarily a better COVID vaccine, so if you’re due for your booster shot, there’s no need to wait around for Novavax to be released.

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