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

Next week, Long Beach will begin offering a new COVID-19 shot that is an alternative to the currently available mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna, city officials said.

Novavax, which was authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control earlier this month, is the fourth vaccine available for use in the United States.

Novavax 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 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 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.

The vaccine, which is only available for those 18 and older at this time, will be administered as a two-dose primary series three to eight weeks apart. As of Monday, Long Beach residents interested in receiving a Novavax vaccine can request one at any of the city’s vaccine clinics, officials said. The vaccine will not be shown as an option when booking an appointment online until the end of August, city officials said, but people can still request it at the clinic.

“We are thrilled to begin offering the Novavax vaccine to our community,” said Mayor Robert Garcia. “With more options available, we are increasing access to these life-saving vaccines. We urge everyone to become vaccinated and protected if they haven’t already. Vaccines are safe and effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death.”

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles County health department announced Friday that its coronavirus vaccination sites will start administering the Novavax vaccine beginning Wednesday.

With the highly infectious BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants driving up case and hospitalization numbers, Los Angeles County moved into the “high” COVID-19 activity level less than two weeks ago, prompting officials to consider reinstating the indoor mask-wearing mandate. But, citing a downward trend in cases earlier this week, the county decided against it.

Long Beach cases have also spiked recently. The city has reported over 2,000 new cases of COVID-19 each of the last three weeks, with the seven-day case rate skyrocketing, reaching 478.8 on July 20. But officials said earlier this week that even if Los Angeles County were to implement a universal indoor mask mandate, it would still only be a recommendation in Long Beach.

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.

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 post-vaccine. It is recommended that any suspected adverse events following vaccination be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS).

City News Service contributed to this report.

Long Beach says it won’t reinstate indoor mask mandate even if LA County does

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