A New Type Of COVID-19 Vaccine Could Debut Soon

a-new-type-of-covid-19-vaccine-could-debut-soon

10-06-21 10:42:00,

A vial of the experimental Novavax coronavirus vaccine is ready for use in a London study in 2020. Novavax’s vaccine candidate contains a noninfectious bit of the virus — the spike protein — with a substance called an adjuvant added that helps the body generate a strong immune response. Alastair Grant/AP hide caption

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Alastair Grant/AP

A vial of the experimental Novavax coronavirus vaccine is ready for use in a London study in 2020. Novavax’s vaccine candidate contains a noninfectious bit of the virus — the spike protein — with a substance called an adjuvant added that helps the body generate a strong immune response.

Alastair Grant/AP

A new kind of COVID-19 vaccine could be available as soon as this summer.

It’s what’s known as a protein subunit vaccine. It works somewhat differently from the current crop of vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. but is based on a well-understood technology and doesn’t require special refrigeration.

In general, vaccines work by showing people’s immune systems something that looks like the virus but really isn’t. Consider it an advance warning; if the real virus ever turns up, the immune system is ready to try to squelch it.

In the case of the coronavirus, that “something” is one of the proteins in the virus — the spike protein.

The vaccines made by Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer contain genetic instructions for the spike protein, and it’s up to the cells in our bodies to make the protein itself.

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The first protein subunit COVID-19 vaccine to become available will likely come from the biotech company, Novavax. In contrast to the three vaccines already authorized in the U.S., it contains the spike protein itself — no need to make it, it’s already made — along with an adjuvant that enhances the immune system’s response, to make the vaccine even more protective.

Protein subunit vaccines made this way have been around for a while. There are vaccines on the market for hepatitis B and pertussis based on this technology.

A large test of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine’s effectiveness, conducted in tens of thousands of volunteers in the United States and Mexico,

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