Australia’s just gotten its first plane-load of Novavax, a new type of vaccine with a name that sounds eerily like a Marvel superhero.

Novavax will be rolled out from Feb 21 and it’s the fourth sexy vaccine to be approved in Australia. So if you don’t know anything about Novavax or you’re curious about what the whole deal is, read on.

What is the Novavax vaccine? 

The Novavax vaccine was approved back in January of 2022. It’s the first protein-based vaccine to be approved in Australia (more on what that means later).

It is created by a US-based biotech company called – you guessed it – Novavax. We love branding!

How is it different to the other vaccines? 

Each of the available vaccines work slightly differently. Pfizer and Moderna are mRNA vaccines while AstraZeneca is a vector vaccine. Now I’m no science bitch (sorry to my Year 12 biology teacher) but luckily the Department of Health has explained how the different vaccines work.

As put by the good folks over at Health, the AZ jab uses a weakened, harmless animal virus (AKA a viral vector). The vector contains the genetic code for the coronavirus spike protein.

Your cells copy the protein, your immune system recognises the spike protein as a threat and your body builds an immune response to it. The human body is truly incredible. It’s basically like real-life Osmosis Jones.

Pfizer and Moderna work slightly differently: they’re messengerRNA (mRNA) vaccines. They use RNA, a genetic code, to make your cells produce the coronavirus spike protein. Then a similar story: your immune system recognises it as a threat and builds an immune response to it.

Bada bing, bada boom.

But like I said before, the Novavax is a protein-based vaccine.

Wait, wtf does protein have to do with it? 

No, the Novavax isn’t going to give you mad muscles or bulk you up à la an intravenous protein powder.

Like I said before, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna all work through giving your body the genetic code of the spike protein.

Novavax instead contains a lil bit of the coronavirus spike protein. Your body recognises it as a threat and then the gorgeous little cells in your immune system builds a response to it.

The Novavax also has an ingredient called the Matrix-M adjuvant which sounds like the name of a recurring character from The Powerpuff Girls. The Matrix-M adjuvant helps create a strong immune response to the vaccine.

As pointed out by Nature.com, protein-based vaccines can also be cheaper to produce and are stable at a wide range of temps, which is great news.

Why are some anti-vaxxers keen on it?

Now, you may have heard whispers that some anti-vaxxers are keen on the Novavax vaccine. Before we get into this though, it’s important to reiterate: all of the vaccines available in Australia are safe and effective. Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca are incredibly valuable and are essential to combatting COVID-19.

Basically, some people are more keen on Novavax because protein-based vaccines are more “traditional”. Trust scientific innovation, people!! Where’s your Star Trek energy!!

I digress.

Professor John Skerritt, head of the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA), acknowledged back in Jan that some people were waiting for Novavax.

“It’s an older technology, yes. And so maybe that’s why some people feel, well, the technology has been around longer,” he explained.

“But I would say that we’ve had many billions of AstraZeneca and messenger RNA vaccines administered globally now. I think we’re up to over 9 billion I think 9.5 billion COVID vaccinations globally.

“So that’s a very large amount of global experience with these newer technologies.

“I would have had several hundred emails from individuals and groups who have said for whatever reason we would like to have [this] particular vaccine.”

In my opinion, we’re incredibly lucky to have access to one type of vaccine, let alone four. But if this can boost our vaccine rates closer to 100%, it’s a winner in my eyes.

The really good news though is that Novavax will mean vaccine access for some people who couldn’t get the other vaccines for medical reasons.

Now that’s something to celebrate.

“For some who may have had contraindications or reactions with regards to other vaccines, this will provide an additional opportunity for them,” said Health Minister Greg Hunt, as per the ABC.

“I do want to encourage everyone, unless there’s a contraindication, please continue to come forward and take the existing vaccines.”

Who’s eligible? 

Anyone over 18 can get the Novavax vaccined. At the moment it’s been approved for two jabs, three weeks apart.

It’s also not recommended for use as a booster jab at the mo, but if necessary it can be combined with other vaccines.

How effective is it?

In its Phase 3 trials, Novavax was found to have a 90% success rate against mild, moderate and severe cases of COVID-19. Yay!

Why isn’t available till Feb 21? 

Now that Novavax has touched down, the TGA will batch test it. Assuming that’s successful it’ll then be supplied to state hubs, GPs and pharmacies.

Australia’s ordered 51 million doses of the good stuff.

Now can I get a yay for vaccines?

YAY!

Image: Getty Images / Jenny Evans