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Health Canada authorizes updated Novavax COVID-19 vaccine targeting XBB variant

OTTAWA — Health Canada authorized Novavax's updated COVID-19 vaccine targeting the XBB.1.5 variant on Tuesday.

"Today's expanded authorization will support the Canadian government's strong commitment to provide its citizens with effective options, such as our protein-based non-mRNA vaccine, in the campaign against currently circulating COVID-19 variants," said John C. Jacobs, president and CEO of Novavax in a news release issued Tuesday afternoon.

Nuvaxovid is a protein subunit vaccine, meaning it uses harmless pieces of the virus that causes COVID-19 to prime the immune system to fight it off.

The currently available XBB-targeting vaccines, manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, both use messenger RNA (mRNA) technology to teach cells in the body how to make the virus's spike protein and then generate an immune response against it.

The XBB reformulation of the mRNA vaccines — Comirnaty and Spikevax — received Health Canada authorization in September.

Novavax's updated XBB vaccine is authorized for people 12 years of age and older.

The mRNA shots are also authorized for younger children — six months of age and older.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends getting an XBB.1.5-targeting vaccine if it has been six months or longer since someone's last COVID-19 vaccination or COVID-19 infection.

It has not yet issued guidance specifically for Novavax's XBB formulation, but that "will be forthcoming," an update to the online Canadian Immunization Guide said on Tuesday.

NACI typically issues its guidance for vaccines after Health Canada authorizes them.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2023.

Canadian Press health coverage receives support through a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association. CP is solely responsible for this content.

Nicole Ireland, The Canadian Press