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The U.S. Should Approve Additional COVID-19 Vaccines, Experts Say

Health care professional administering a vaccine shot.

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Key Takeaways

  • Novavax shared that its two-dose COVID-19 vaccine was 90.4% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19, based on results from its Phase 3 clinical trials.
  • Approving additional COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. can provide Americans with more options and increase the demand for shots globally.
  • Other COVID-19 vaccines may also work as potential boosters in the future.

Earlier this month, the pharmaceutical company Novavax shared that its two-dose COVID-19 vaccine was 90.4% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19, based on results from its Phase 3 clinical trials.

The Novavax vaccine was also 100% effective against moderate and severe disease. Amid these promising results, the company plans to file for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorization. If authorized, it would become the fourth vaccine available in the U.S.

With vaccination rates slowing nationwide, and millions of doses going unused, additional vaccines—such as Novavax or AstraZeneca—may no longer seem necessary. However, experts say that the authorization of other COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. still offers benefits.

Why Should the U.S. Authorize Additional COVID Vaccines?

Currently, three COVID-19 vaccines have received Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA) in the U.S.: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Although there is plenty of supply of these authorized vaccines in the country, approving the use of additional vaccines can make it easier for people to get vaccinated.

It Provides More Options

“It will provide different options to vaccine recipients and the healthcare providers,” Inci Yildirim, MD, vaccinologist and pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Yale Medicine and associate professor of pediatrics and global health at the Yale School of Medicine, tells Verywell. “It may increase the acceptance as some people may have certain concerns for certain types of vaccines.”

Unlike Pfizer or Moderna that made use of mRNA technology to develop their COVID-19 vaccines, Novavax took a well-established and older approach in making theirs. As a protein subunit vaccine, the Novavax vaccine injects a specific, isolated protein of the pathogen to trigger an immune response in the body. Some available vaccines for hepatitis B and pertussis currently use this technology.

Experts say that there may be people who are more willing to take this kind of vaccine instead. This type of shot may also cause fewer side effects for some subgroups or age groups.

“In addition, we have experienced the challenges with supply shocks or shortages during the pandemic for almost everything including therapeutics and personal protective equipment,” Yildirim says. “Having different vaccines from different resources and producers might reduce the impact of these shortages on the speed of vaccine roll-out in the future.”

More Vaccines Can Increase Demand

New COVID-19 vaccines can improve access to those who still face challenges in getting vaccinated and also increase global demand, William Moss, MD, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, tells Verywell.

A vaccine’s authorization in the U.S. can increase global confidence and, in turn, demand for that vaccine, Moss adds. That stamp of approval helps shield it from the risk of being considered “second class."

“I think there is still justification for the U.S. FDA to grant an Emergency Use Authorization to additional COVID-19 vaccines, particularly if they have potential advantages over the current vaccines,” Moss says. “The FDA can issue EUAs under a public health emergency, which I expect will extend into the fall and winter because of likely surges due to variants and changes in behavior.”

Additional Vaccines May Be Used as Boosters

Although the current COVID-19 vaccines provide protection against severe disease, boosters may be needed in the future to maintain high levels of immunity against the virus.

Further research is required to know if, or when, they are needed. If booster doses become necessary, a larger number of vaccine doses will be needed in the U.S., experts say.

“The Novavax or AstraZeneca vaccines could potentially be used as booster doses in the U.S even for individuals vaccinated with a different brand,” Moss says. “However, this will depend on the reason booster doses are needed. If booster doses are needed because of viral variants, rather than waning immunity, the Novavax or AstraZeneca vaccines may not be the best choice, depending on their effectiveness against a particular variant.”

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is currently evaluating the safety and efficacy of administering boosters shots to individuals who were fully vaccinated with a different brand of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Studies are underway to see mix and match schedules,” Yildirim says. “If we decide there is a need for using different types, different brands, and different schedules, we will first need to evaluate if it will be safe.”

What This Means For You

While you cannot yet receive the Novavax vaccine, there are three different COVID-19 shots available to you in the U.S. If you are currently unvaccinated, you can visit Vaccines.gov to find an appointment near you.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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Article Sources
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  1. Novavax. Novavax covid-19 vaccine demonstrates 90% overall efficacy and 100% protection against moderate and severe disease in prevent-19 phase 3 trial. June 14, 2021.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Understanding How COVID-19 Vaccines Work. Updated May 27, 2021.

  3. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Vaccine Types. Updated July 1, 2019.

  4. National Institutes of Health. NIH clinical trial evaluating mixed COVID-19 vaccine schedules begins. Published June 1, 2021.