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Novavax COVID-19 vaccine to become available this weekend in San Diego

San Diego County residents will be able to get the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine as soon as this weekend, the county Health and Human Services Agency announced Friday.

Novavax, in use in other countries, is a more "traditional" vaccine, developed using protein-based technology, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been using for decades to treat diseases such as hepatitis B, shingles and human papillomavirus. The vaccine presents a specific portion of the virus which the body generates immunity against.

"In the mRNA vaccine, you’re not even chopping up bits of this protein to the body. You’re giving a message and the body makes this protein," explained Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, the assistant dean of regional campuses at the University of California San Francisco, and an infectious disease professor. He said what made this vaccine different was that it’s quite ordinary. "The Novavax is using very traditional technology. We’ve used it for hepatitis vaccines and human papilloma virus vaccine so it’s tried and true, using an old-fashioned method chopping up bits of what the virus looks like you send it to the body and you develop antibodies."

Novavax has been authorized as a two-dose primary series, given three to eight weeks apart, to people ages 18 and older. Clinical trials showed that the vaccine is 90% effective at preventing mild, moderate and severe COVID-19.

"This is yet another vaccine we have to slow the spread of COVID-19, especially now that we're seeing an increase in cases and hospitalizations," said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, deputy county public health officer. "San Diegans now have another safe choice to prevent serious complications from COVID."

According to the HHSA, clinical trials found that Novavax does not cause severe side effects. Reactions were mild and like those rare effects seen from COVID-19 vaccines using the mRNA technology, such as pain, tenderness, redness and swelling at the injection site.

Novavax is expected to be available at local health care providers, retail pharmacies, community clinics, and county public health centers and community vaccination events.

"And now Novavax gives people another choice to be protected against COVID-19. San Diegans should get the vaccine that they feel works best for them," Kaiser said. He added that boosters make a huge difference in preventing infection and or reinfection, especially if you’re in a high-risk category. "Long COVID takes many forms and it can be disabling for people the best prevention is not to get it in the first place."

This vaccine is approved for people 18 and over.

The number of people hospitalized with a coronavirus infection in San Diego County increased by 13 to 450, but even that number has dropped by 15 since last week, according to the data released by the state Thursday.

As recently as Monday, 465 people in the county were hospitalized with COVID-19 — the most since late February.

ICU patients with COVID as of Thursday decreased by one to 47. There were three fewer hospital beds available Thursday, totaling 221.

The county Health and Human Services Agency reported 1,678 new infections and 10 deaths Thursday, increasing the county's cumulative totals to 881,729 cases and 5,409 deaths.

San Diego County's case rate per 100,000 residents 12 years of age and older is 54.35 for people fully vaccinated and boosted, 32.53 for fully vaccinated people and 93.86 for not fully vaccinated San Diegans.

According to the county's Health and Human Services Agency, lab-confirmed coronavirus cases remain near 10,000 per week, a number that does not include at-home tests. The HHSA also reported that it has also seen an increase in re-infections — San Diegans who have tested positive for COVID-19 several times throughout the pandemic. Prior infection does not necessarily prevent re- infection with some of the newer virus variants, according to national data.

More than 3 million, or 89.9%, San Diegans age 6 months and older are at least partially vaccinated. More than 2.65 million, or 79.3%, are fully vaccinated. A total of 1,416,251, or 58%, of the 2,430,747 eligible San Diegans have received a booster.