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Novavax, The New COVID Vaccine, Will Be Available This Week In LA

A health care worker in blue gloves and a mask injects a person in their upper arm.
A woman receives a COVID-19 vaccine at Ted Watkins Memorial Park in Watts in May.
(Ashley Balderrama for LAist)
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A more traditional kind of COVID-19 vaccine will be available starting Wednesday at Los Angeles County vaccine sites. Health officials hope Novavax will appeal to the 1.5 million adult Angelenos who still haven't been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The mRNA vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer stimulate the immune system by injecting snippets of genetic code for a key protein from the virus into the body. Although they are very safe and highly effective, some people have been reluctant to get them because of misinformation about their safety.

In contrast, the Novavax vaccine injects copies of the spike protein that are grown in a lab and resemble a virus to the immune system, prompting an immune response. It’s the same technology used to make shingles and hepatitis B shots.

Both approaches have proved successful against COVID-19.

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Large studies in the U.S. and Mexico involving 30,000 patients found two doses of the Novavax vaccine were safe and about 90% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19. However, the studies ended last fall, before the omicron variant was detected in the U.S. Novavax is testing shots updated to better match the newest omicron subtypes BA.4 and BA.5.

There is some evidence the Novavax vaccine may cause a rare but temporary swelling of the heart, which also occurs sometimes in people who get one of the other COVID-19 vaccines. But federal health officials concluded that the benefits of the Novavax vaccine outweigh the risks and authorized its use in the U.S. in July.

L.A. County residents can walk into any Public Health vaccination location to receive the vaccine beginning Aug. 3, 2022.

What questions do you have about the pandemic and health care?
Jackie Fortiér helps Southern Californians understand the pandemic by identifying what's working and what's not in our health response.