The latest COVID-19 vaccine has local health officials feeling optimistic that skeptics will roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated with a new option available.
The Novavax vaccine is now the fourth available in the ongoing fight against COVID-19 and Harris County Health Officials announced late last week they've started administering the new option.
Unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and the Johnson and Johnson vaccines, which were the first to be granted approval by the Food and Drug Administration, Novavax does not use messenger RNA, or mRNA, technology.
MRNA technology struck a chord for some Americans at the beginning of the pandemic because it was perceived by those to be unsafe, due to the technology's newness and a misconception that it could alter human DNA. Instead, the Novavax vaccine uses more traditional protein-based vaccine methods.
This is why Dr. David Persse, Chief Medical Officer for the City of Houston, says the Novavax option could help with vaccine hesitancy.
"We are certainly hopeful for people who had concerns about the mRNA vaccines because it was a new technology and were holding off in getting vaccinated will take the Novavax vaccine because it is made using the more traditional methods," Persse said.
Unlike the mRNA and vector vaccines, Yale Medicine reports Novavax is a protein adjuvant. An adjuvant is an ingredient used to strengthen the immune response. Novavax takes a different approach. It contains the spike protein of the coronavirus itself, but formulated as a nano-particle, which cannot cause the disease. When the vaccine is injected, it stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies and T-cell immune responses.
Using the more traditional vaccine methods is also the reason why Persse says it has taken longer to roll-out.
"Novavax is just now coming available because the traditional methods take so much longer to produce vaccines," he said. "This is for those who were concerned about the new technology, this is perhaps what they were waiting for."
Health officials say the Novavax vaccine was found to be 90% effective against mild, moderate and severe cases of Covid-19 in adults.
The Texas Department of State Health Services website reports there have been close to 47,000 Covid-19 vaccines administered throughout the state but only just over 7 million people are fully vaccinated with at least one booster.
The Novavax vaccine has been authorized for adults 18 and older. It requires two doses three weeks apart.