Local health experts on new COVID vaccine

(ABC 6 News) – For the first time since May, the Centers for Disease Control is reporting that the new variant BA.5 accounts for all of the new cases. Over 109,000 cases are being reported a day, with 85% of the population living in places with medium to high transmission, including Olmsted County.

Local health officials are optimistic that a vaccine new to the United States will attract a new round of previously unvaccinated people. This new vaccine, Novavax, is different than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in the way it works inside your body.

Pfizer and Moderna each use mRNA technology to teach your cells to make a special protein and fight the virus. Novavax works more like a typical vaccine. It already contains the protein needed to fight the virus

“It’s just like many of the vaccines, and it’s just a protein that induces antibodies when given to people,” said Abinash Virk, a professor of medicine of infectious diseases at Mayo Clinic.

Both Mayo Clinic and Olmsted County Public Health are hoping this familiarity means the unvaccinated will be more open to this option.

“We think that hopefully people will feel more comfortable with this,” Virk said.

“Novavax provides another opportunity for those who haven’t yet received their primary doses, especially those concerned with the RNA or mRNA vaccines,” a spokesperson with Olmsted County Public Health told ABC 6 News.

But health experts stress that this doesn’t mean the other vaccines don’t work, even as new variants emerge.

“These vaccines are still effective in preventing people from dying and getting really ill, so they shouldn’t really discount them,” Virk added.

“I’m really grateful for the medical community and the scientists who took the time and the effort to put everything into trying to help us,” said Diana Shaw, who recently got over COVID, and is visiting Rochester.

Shaw says she’s thankful the vaccine made her symptoms less severe.

“You know after having been boosted twice I would do it again. It probably saved my life because I’m older,” said said.

Health experts are expecting it to be a couple weeks before the Novavax vaccine is available for widespread distribution.