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The U.S. is about to approve a fourth COVID vaccine that could be a silver bullet solution to the anti-vax crisis

March 7, 2022, 5:53 PM UTC

It might not be long until a fourth COVID vaccine is available in the U.S., and it’s a big deal.

Novavax Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine is on its way towards authorization from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration after formally submitting a request in late January. 

The company says it has resolved the manufacturing issues that had delayed their application, and now expects approval from the FDA in the coming weeks, according to reporting from the Wall Street Journal

In clinical trials first published in January 2021, Novavax’s vaccine was up to 90% effective in preventing severe COVID-19 infections, on par with the already-approved vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. But questions remained about the company’s manufacturing capabilities that have delayed its ability to bring the vaccine to market.

The Maryland-based biotech firm has already won approval for its vaccine in Australia, India, the European Commission and several other countries since last November. 

The catch is: Novavax’s vaccine could be embraced by much of the anti-vaccine crowd that has been reluctant to get jabbed so far.

‘Novastans’ prominent on social media

As Fortune reported in January, the Novavax vaccine has accumulated a large number of fans — known as “Novastans” — in the U.S. eagerly awaiting its approval and posting about it on social media platforms like Reddit and Twitter

“To U.S. citizens in the United States of America: We got to be more aggressive!” a user said on Reddit about Novavax’s approval in the U.S. “Enough is enough!”

“We were told we would have Novavax’s by mid [last] year, and we are waiting to still get it,” wrote another user, who said they had refused vaccination until Novavax’s is approved.

Rollout of the vaccine could help efforts to vaccinate many who have been hesitant to receive the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna, which skeptics have feared were developed too rapidly and without long-term data. 

Why does Novavax’s vaccine have so many fans?

Novavax’s protein-based vaccine uses a technology that’s been around for decades, and has long been used in flu shots and vaccinations in babies against hepatitis-B. 

“Novavax’s vaccine offers something different; it is based on well-understood, protein-based technology that has been used for decades in vaccinations like flu, HPV and shingles,” said Silvia Taylor, Novavax’s senior vice president of global corporate affairs, in a January interview with Fortune.

As of March 6, 76.5% of the U.S. population had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, while 65.1% were fully vaccinated, according to the Mayo Clinic’s vaccination tracker. 

The Novavax vaccine could help improve that number. In an interview with CNN late last year, Novavax CEO Stanley Erck said the “primary market” for his company’s vaccine was “people who have been hesitant to get other vaccines.”

Doctors seem to agree.

“It’s important to offer the choice,” Carina Rodriguez, chief of infectious diseases at the University of South Florida, told the Wall Street Journal. “Maybe it will not completely eliminate the issue of vaccine hesitancy but will help people who are not comfortable going with an mRNA vaccine.”

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