Novavax? It's Worth a Shot (A Little Bit of Good News)

There's good news about Novavax, and vaccines in general. Of course, there's always a reality check.

Woman getting vaccine shot.
Hector Pertuz

The world has gone to a dark place this week, but there's some good news on the pandemic front. As you probably know already, the FDA finally approved Novavax's updated vaccine. Now you can get at least one dose even if you previously went with the mRNA brands. It's a big deal. (I've already booked my appointment.) There's a growing list of stores and pharmacies offering Novavax, including Costco, Rite Aid, Publix, and CVS.

Why would you want Novavax?

An epidemiologist at George Washington University named Daniel Park has rounded up several studies on Novavax, showing that it's up to 9 times more effective at preventing infections.

Here he is:

Novavax has fewer side effects, and it lasts longer against variants. I've made a folder with relevant information:

Here it is:

There's a little more good news:

The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) just alerted everyone to a new study about vaccines and Long Covid. This study appears in the Cambridge journal ASHE. The authors reviewed 24 studies on Long Covid or post-Covid illness and found that three doses of vaccine produced 69 perfect efficacy against Long Covid. In other words, you're 69 percent less likely to get Long Covid with 3 shots, compared to 37 percent efficacy with two. They included studies from several brands, including Pfizer and Moderna.

Obviously, there's some caveats here. The biggest one: The study concluded that you had to complete the original vaccine series before getting infected. If you got infected before finishing the first two doses, then the vaccines provided no serious protection against Long Covid.

This study is also a big deal.

It starts to answer some questions about why the vaccines seem to protect some people from Long Covid, but not others.

Turns out, it's complicated.

If you managed to avoid catching Covid at all until after getting two or three shots, then you probably have enjoyed enhanced protection against Long Covid. That rings true with all of the other studies we've seen. On the other hand, we also know that vaccines and treatments (including Paxlovid) have extremely mixed results for some people, including the immunocompromised.

That's why we need masks and air purifiers.

Now for the reality check:

This new information condemns any decision to drop Covid protections in schools before vaccinating the majority of children and adolescents. There was an enormous campaign against vaccinating kids, as chronicled by Jonathan Howard, something I wrote about here. Parents were told over and over again that their children didn't really need vaccines. Our own FDA and CDC dragged their feet on approvals for more than a year.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, Covid vaccination rates hover at 13 percent for children under five. They top out at 59 percent for those under 18. The media ignores all of this, and they continue to bang the drum blaming lockdowns for poor test scores and academic performance. It even blames lockdowns for developmental delays in toddlers.

Meanwhile, the evidence mounts that it was the catastrophically poor decision not to vaccinate kids against Covid. It was the tidal wave of misinformation that they were somehow "naturally immune" to the virus. It's heartbreaking to think about how many lives could've been saved and improved if we'd kept children protected and vaccinated them sooner. Now it's unclear whether they'll ever truly enjoy the level of protection that they could have.

Another reality check:

A recent article on Novavax in Science offers a little caution about its advantages. As the experts say, it's getting hard to track vaccine efficacy. The majority of people out there are getting infected and reinfected every few months, whether they realize it or not. The virus itself mutates at astonishing rates, producing all kinds of variants with different mutations. This point makes it difficult to know exactly how the vaccines are doing at any given time.

The experts are fairly sure about one thing:

Mixing vaccine brands puts the odds in your favor, because each one conditions your immune system in slightly different ways. They also know that they're going to have to offer updated vaccines at least once a year. Finally, they know we're going to need a new generation of vaccines with more durability.

The experts are absolutely positive about this:

You don't want Covid once.
You don't want it twice.
You don't want it over and over.

There's a consensus across the vast majority of the articles out there. There's no such thing as herd immunity with Covid. Getting reinfected doesn't build up your immune system. It disrupts and weakens your immune system. Even my daughter's pediatrician agrees on this. Covid doesn't get milder over time. The symptoms merely appear that way.

We know that even imperfect masking can reduce transmission as well as your viral load, and that matters. Cleaning the air works extremely well to reduce transmission and viral loads. You can reduce the harm Covid does with vaccines, but you can't eliminate it.

That's what we know.

Despite the good news, people are still having trouble finding updated vaccines in general, especially for younger children. The closest pharmacy offering vaccines for children under 5 in my area is... almost an hour away. In some areas, people aren't having any luck at all. There's only one way to fix this problem, and that's to keep calling pharmacies and making noise online.

In general, our governments have done a poor job rolling out vaccines. They've done a poor job informing and educating the public about how to protect themselves. The news media routinely platforms public health "experts" who choose to downplay and minimize the risks. They offer confusing advice about everything from masks to vaccines.

In some ways, it's no wonder the public feels fatigued. They don't know where to go to find clear, reliable information. They hear us. Then they hear the opposite of what we say on the news.

It probably does make them angry.

They take it out on us.

Somehow, we became the voice of reason in all of this. We formed communities. We developed our scientific literacy. For nearly four years now, we've been learning about everything from aerosols to the science of N95 masks. We've been building Corsi-Rosenthal boxes and fact-checking the media. It's often a thankless job. We're patronized and pathologized 24/7.

But I think one day we'll be remembered as the ones who went above and beyond to protect public health. Unlike the narcissistic quacks who fight vaccines and masks for fame, I think we'll settle for a footnote.

Last thing:

We've got new posts up on the site by Katie Jgln and Shannon Ashley. Several writers have contacted me with ideas for important pieces about public health, climate change, and the state of the world. Those stories are going to be landing in the next week or so.

There was recently a big drop in paid subscriptions (about 100). I think a lot of people's memberships are coming up for renewal this time of year. As I said in previous posts, Substack didn't make the transition very easy. If you could look at your info and update it, that would be a big help.

Take care,


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