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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Novavax COVID-19 vaccine, recently cleared by U.S. regulators, was tested at UW

University of Washington Medical Center Montlake campus pharmacy administration resident Derek Pohlmeyer, left, and UWMC pharmacy director Michael Alwan transport a box containing Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines toward a waiting vehicle headed to the UW Medical Center’s other hospital campuses on Dec. 14, 2020.  (Mike Siegel/Seattle Times)
By Christine Clarridge Seattle Times

SEATTLE – A protein-based COVID-19 vaccine that went through clinical trials at the University of Washington Medicine Virology Research Clinic could soon be available in the U.S.

The Food and Drug Administration this week authorized Novavax’s vaccine for emergency use in adults 18 and older. A green light from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is needed before Americans can get the two-dose vaccination.

The UW Medicine Virology Research Clinic was one of several sites throughout the U.S. and Mexico in a Phase III clinical trial, which enrolled nearly 500 participants.

Novavax makes a more traditional type of shot than the three other COVID-19 vaccines available for use in the U.S. It is available in multiple other countries.

Experts expect at least some people who have yet to be vaccinated against the coronavirus to opt for this more conventional, protein-based option.

The shot is similar to other protein-based vaccines that have been used for years, and sometimes decades, to prevent hepatitis B, shingles and other diseases.

It’s a very different technology than the dominant Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines that deliver genetic instructions for the body to produce its own copies of the spike protein, according to UW researchers.

“It’s a vaccine that is more like traditional vaccines for hepatitis B or human papillomavirus,” Dr. Scott McClelland, professor of medicine at the UW School of Medicine said in a statement. “There are over 40 countries that have already approved use of the Novavax vaccine, so it’s in use in a lot of places.”

According to McClelland, the UW clinical trial showed the Novavax shots were 90% effective overall at preventing symptomatic infection.

As with other vaccines, he said, the effectiveness of Novavax is expected to decrease as the coronavirus variants evolve.

McClelland says the vast majority of side effects reported during the trial were mild. “Most commonly, things like a sore arm or a headache,” said McClelland.