An influential scientific panel is meeting on Tuesday to discuss who should receive a newly authorized Covid-19 vaccine from Novavax, a Maryland pharmaceutical company that hopes its shot will appeal to Americans who have so far declined to be vaccinated.
The independent experts, who advise the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on its vaccine policies, will convene at 10 a.m. Eastern (you can watch the meeting here). They are scheduled to vote on whether to endorse Novavax’s latecomer vaccine, which is expected to play a limited role in the country’s immunization campaign, at least initially. The Food and Drug Administration last week authorized it as a primary immunization for adults, but has not yet considered it for a booster shot.
The Biden administration said last week that it would buy 3.2 million doses of the two-shot vaccine, enough to fully vaccinate 1.6 million people in the United States. The vaccine is not yet available in pharmacies and other clinics that administer shots in the United States. In announcing the purchase, the government said that Novavax was expected to soon finish its quality testing, a necessary step before the doses can be released.
If the C.D.C. panel, called the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, votes to endorse the vaccine’s use, the next step will be for the C.D.C. director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, to accept its recommendations, which typically happens swiftly.
The vaccine was found to be highly protective against infection and severe disease from the coronavirus in clinical trials, but those were conducted before the emergence of the Omicron variant, which has sharply reduced the effectiveness of other authorized vaccines in preventing infections.
At the meeting on Tuesday, a C.D.C. official will review clinical trial data that has linked the vaccine to an elevated but small risk of developing forms of heart inflammation known as myocarditis and pericarditis. In their review of Novavax’s data, F.D.A. scientists identified six cases of the conditions in about 40,000 trial volunteers.
Novavax’s vaccine works differently from the three Covid vaccines previously authorized in the United States. It provokes an immune response with nanoparticles made up of proteins from the surface of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. Similar protein-based vaccines have been used globally for decades.
Novavax executives contend that this tried-and-true technology will make the vaccine more acceptable to those concerned that the messenger RNA technology used by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna in their vaccines, which account for the vast majority of the vaccinations in the United States.