FDA authorizes Novavax COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

Health officials hope Novavax's more traditional COVID-19 shot will appeal to unvaccinated Americans

The FDA authorized Novavax's vaccine for emergency use on Wednesday, giving Americans another option and an alternative to the mRNA vaccines that have predominantly been used so far in the pandemic. 

The approval comes about a month after an FDA advisory panel unanimously recommended the vaccine, a two-dose regimen that was shown to be 90.4% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infection. 

"Today’s authorization offers adults in the United States who have not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine another option that meets the FDA’s rigorous standards for safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality needed to support emergency use authorization," FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert M. Califf said Wednesday. 

A trial of a Novavax vaccine

This Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020 file photo shows a vial of the Phase 3 Novavax coronavirus vaccine ready for use in a trial at St. George's University hospital in London.  (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File / AP Newsroom)

Novavax's vaccine is a more traditional protein vaccine that uses similar technology to what has been used for decades to fight diseases like hepatitis B and shingles. 


The two most popular vaccines, made by Pfizer and Moderna, use messenger RNA, or mRNA, to deliver genetic instructions to an individual's immune system to produce its own copies of the spike protein that is found on the surface of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. 

A fourth vaccine option made by Johnson & Johnson is a viral vector vaccine, but the FDA advisory panel recommended Moderna and Pfizer's vaccines over Johnson & Johnson's in December due to a rare blood clotting disorder. 

Novavax COVID vaccines in India

In this image provided by the Serum Institute of India, vials of freshly manufactured Novavax COVID-19 vaccines wait to be labeled in 2022, in Pune, India.  (Serum Institute of India for Novavax via AP / AP Newsroom)

Some health officials are hopeful that Novavax's more traditional vaccine will appeal to the roughly 24 million American adults who haven't received a dose of any vaccine yet.

"The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine offers an option to individuals who may have an allergic reaction to mRNA vaccines or who have a personal preference for receiving a vaccine other than a mRNA-based vaccine," the Department of Health and Human Services said last week. 


About 3.2 million doses of Novavax's vaccine have already been ordered by the federal government. They will be released once the CDC gives final approval in the coming weeks. 

Fox Business's Julia Musto contributed to this report.