A new COVID-19 vaccine: who it’s for and how it works

Published: Jul. 29, 2022 at 10:35 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - A new Novavax COVID-19 vaccine was approved by the FDA earlier this month for unvaccinated adults and is set to come to the commonwealth in mid-August.

Novavax differs from other common vaccines because it uses protein subunits to fight the virus, unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines which use mRNA.

“Subunit vaccines include a part of the virus that best stimulates your immune system,” Laura Lee Wight with the Central Shenandoah Health District said. “The difference is mRNA gives your body instructions on how to fight COVID-19, and the protein subunit vaccine provides your body with a ‘wanted’ poster of what it should be looking for.”

Wight assures the S-protein used is safe and effective, and it is a more common vaccine technology. Some other vaccines that use subunits include Hepatitis B and Pertussis.

She stressed that Novavax is not a booster shot and should not be used with other vaccines. Instead, it caters to people who are medically unable to take mRNA vaccines or people who want a vaccine that uses “more familiar technology.”

“This is a good opportunity for them to get a COVID-19 vaccine if they didn’t want to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is currently not recommended for public uses unless you cannot get an mRNA vaccine, so this is just expanding options for the community,” she said.

The Virginia Department of Health is expecting to make Novavax available by mid-August. The CSHD is working to get a supply for people in the Valley. She said when it is available the public will be notified through multiple channels but especially social media.

According to Wight, Harrisonburg and Rockingham County are considered “high” for community levels of COVID-19 which is based on three things: number of cases, hospitalizations, and beds available.

She recommends wearing a mask in public spaces, having a plan for testing if needed, and your COVID shots current.

With the school year around the corner, Wight urges families to make sure their children are up-to-date on all their immunizations and routine check-ups and to continue common COVID-19 practices throughout the school year.

For questions regarding vaccines or COVID-19, you can call the Central Shenandoah Health District COVID-19 Hotline at (855) 949-8378.

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