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New option for unvaccinated airmen, guardians

Air Force prepares for newly approved COVID-19 vaccine

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mikayla Heineck

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FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AFNS)-  The Air Force will soon have the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine available after the U.S Food and Drug Administration authorized it for emergency use and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed it as another primary series option for adults ages 18 years and older.

The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine, which will be available in the coming weeks, is a two-dose vaccine that presents a new option for those who have been hesitant to receive the FDA fully licensed and approved mRNA vaccines, Pfizer Cominarty and Moderna Spikevax.

One distinction from mRNA vaccines is that Novavax uses a traditional platform similar to other vaccines that airmen and guardians may have already received.

"Most airmen and guardians have already received vaccines using similar technology as the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine, like the hepatitis B vaccine, which is a Department of Defense requirement. Other vaccines produced with similar technology are the human papillomavirus vaccine and even one of the flu vaccines," said Lt. Col. David Sayers, chief of preventive medicine, Air Force Medical Readiness Agency. "The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine uses technology that has been around since the 1980s. Not only do we have effectiveness and safety data from the Novavax clinical trials, but we also have decades of experience with this type of vaccine."

In clinical trials performed before the emergence of the delta and omicron variants, Novavax was 90.4% effective in preventing mild, moderate or severe COVID-19 infections. Unvaccinated service members must receive the two doses, the primary series, taken at least 21 days apart to be considered fully vaccinated and meet the Department of Defense COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

Individuals who are in the process of seeking a religious accommodation exemption can elect to use any FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccination under emergency use or fully licensed vaccine, which now includes Novavax, at any point in the review process to comply with this vaccine requirement.

"Novavax may accommodate those with sincerely held beliefs who felt limited in their options with the previous vaccine offering," said Maj. Gen. Sharon Bannister, medical operations director, Air Force Surgeon General.

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Air Force medical leaders are urging all airmen, guardians and their families to vaccinate against COVID-19 and stay up-to-date on their vaccinations. Approved vaccines have been proven to decrease the chances of severe COVID-19 and prevent hospitalizations and death. Currently, the United States is averaging more than 120,000 daily reported cases and more than 350 deaths per day, driven by the new, more contagious variant called BA.5.

"Unlike the flu, which circulates seasonally, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has circulated continuously over the last two and a half years," said Sayers. "It is important to get vaccinated and stay up-to-date with your vaccines to limit severe disease. The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine is another option to ensure we can protect our members and protect the mission."

Airmen and guardians can contact their local military treatment facilities for more information. Additional information on vaccine appointments and testing can be found here.

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