A new and different COVID-19 vaccine is now available on the Central Coast.
Novavax is the fourth coronavirus vaccine approved for emergency use in the U.S. It’s now available at health clinics in San Luis Obispo County.
“All vaccines work in a similar way in that they want the body to create neutralizing antibodies,” said Dr. Scott Robertson, President and CEO of Pacific Central Coast Health Centers.
“The ones that we’re familiar with — the Moderna and the Pfizer — they really provide instructions to the cells of the body to make something that looks like the virus so that it can mount an immune response,” said San Luis Obispo County Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein.
Public health officials say that Novavax is a more traditional vaccine and is different from messenger RNA shots offered by Pfizer and Moderna.
“This one, the Novavax, is more traditional in the way it’s made,” said Dr. Borenstein. “It actually has a protein-like substance in the vaccine that is the same protein that’s on the virus itself.”
Novavax is a two-shot vaccine and doses can be taken three to eight weeks apart. Currently, there is no booster available.
“When you look at the data and the outcomes in terms of preventing infection and preventing serious or complex illness due to COVID-19, it really seems to be just as effective as the messenger RNA vaccines,” said Dr. Robertson.
Health experts say that vaccination rates have dropped across the Central Coast over the past several months.
“I think a lot of that has to do with the changing nature of COVID-19. We are seeing few people hospitalized despite the fact that there’s been a tremendous prevalence over the last six weeks in all of our communities,” added Dr. Robertson.
SLO County’s Public Health Officer says that Novavax has been made available, in part, due to ongoing concerns among some people over messenger RNA shots.
“It may be an option for people who have been holding out for something that they’re more comfortable with,” said Dr. Borenstein. “I expect that demand will be modest because I think most of the people who have wanted to get vaccinated have already done so.”
Novavax was authorized for emergency use this week in children between the ages of 12 and 17.
The new vaccine is available by appointment and special request. Anyone interested can call San Luis Obispo County Public Health at (805) 781-5500 for assistance.