RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Wake and Durham counties are now offering the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine. This comes after the FDA and CDC finally gave the vaccine a green light to be used.

The vaccine is two-dose regimen authorized for people 18 and older. Like the currently authorized vaccines, doses are given three weeks apart. No booster doses have been authorized for Novavax.

Clinical trials show it was 90 percent effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 illness.

How it works

Novavax’s shot works differently than the widely-used Pfizer and Moderna shots.

“There are different ways to design a vaccine,” said Dr. Cinday Gay, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the UNC School of Medicine, in an informational video about the vaccine.

Gay was involved in clinal trials for the vaccines at UNC.

Pfizer and Moderna are mRNA-based vaccines. This new kind of vaccine delivers instructions to cells to teach it how to respond and fight off a COVID-19 infection.

Gay said the Novavax vaccine is a protein-based vaccine — a much more traditional vaccine. There are several protein-based vaccines that have been approved and used in the United States for various infections for decades, according to Gay.

“With this strategy of the vaccine, the vaccine itself delivers the piece of the COVID-19 virus that we want to elicit the immune response. So, it’s the same spike protein that is eliciting a response with the other COVID -19 vaccines but in this case, it’s being delivered directly as a vaccine,” explained Gay.

The vaccine has already been in use in other countries. Gay said one of the key benefits of this vaccine is that unlike the other COVID vaccines in use in the U.S., Novavax vaccines do not have to be frozen. That makes it easier to deliver and store in rural or low-resource countries or cities.

“In many ways, it makes it a much more accessible vaccine once it becomes more widely available including in the United States which does have a lot of rural, semi-rural settings,” said Gay.

Side effects

Like any vaccine, side effects are expected from the Novavax vaccines. According to documents from the FDA, side effects were more frequently felt after the second dose.

The most frequently reported side effects for trial participants ages 18 to 64 were:

  • Injection site pain/tenderness (82.2%)
  • Fatigue (62.0%)
  • Headache (52.9%)
  • Muscle pain (54.1%)

In trial participants over the age of 65 years of age, the most common side effects were:

  • Injection site pain/tenderness (63.4%)
  • Fatigue (39.2%)
  • Headache (29.2%)
  • Muscle pain (30.2%)

FDA documents show most side effects were mild to moderate in severity and lasted up to three days.