Long Beach expands eligibility of Novavax COVID-19 vaccine to children 12 and up

As of Thursday, children 12 and older are now eligible to receive the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine at any Long Beach vaccine clinic.

Novavax was authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control last month and, as a protein-based vaccine, it serves as an alternative to the currently available mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna.

Prior to Thursday’s announcement, only those 18 and older were eligible to receive the vaccine. The decision to expand the eligibility comes after the FDA approved the emergency use authorization of the vaccine for 12 years and older last week. The Centers for Disease Control endorsed the action a few days later.

“This expansion will help keep our children safe—especially as families prepare to return to school,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement Thursday. “We urge everyone to get vaccinated and protected if they haven’t already.”

Novavax is now the fourth vaccine available for use in the United States.

It differs from its mRNA counterparts because rather than tricking the body’s cells into creating parts of the coronavirus, which then triggers an immune system response, it uses a spike protein of the actual virus itself that has been created as a nanoparticle, which cannot cause the disease in a person. It also contains a stimulant taken from the extract of a soapbark tree that is meant to produce a better response by the immune system.

This older, protein-based technology has been used successfully for decades to treat other diseases such as hepatitis B and HPV.

The Novavax coronavirus vaccine was approved for emergency use authorization after it was found to be 90% effective against mild, moderate and severe disease in a Phase 3 clinical trial by the FDA involving 30,000 participants ages 18 and older.

“Authorizing an additional COVID-19 vaccine expands the available vaccine options for the prevention of COVID-19, including the most severe outcomes that can occur such as hospitalization and death,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert M. Califf said in announcing the vaccine’s authorization in July.

The vaccine is administered as a two-dose primary series three to eight weeks apart (the use of the Novavax vaccine as a third primary shot and booster has not been authorized, according to the CDC).

The Novavax vaccine will not be listed as an option on the city’s MyTurn website until the end of August. But anyone interested in receiving the Novavax vaccine can request it at one of the city-run vaccine clinics, officials said.

With COVID-19 vaccines now available for everyone 6 months and older, health officials continue to urge people to get vaccinated, emphasizing that the vaccines have undergone rigorous monitoring to ensure they are safe and effective.

In Long Beach, 70.5% of people are fully vaccinated, according to the most recent city data. Meanwhile, 78% have received at least one dose.

Additionally, parents and guardians are encouraged to sign their children up for V-Safe to share information with the CDC about how their child feels after receiving the vaccine. It is recommended that any suspected adverse events following vaccination be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS).

Long Beach will begin offering newly approved Novavax COVID-19 vaccine next week

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Fernando Haro is the Long Beach Post's breaking news and public safety reporter.
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