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New COVID-19 vaccine could override religious exemptions

The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine uses traditional methods that could help address religious exemptions.
Credit: Associated Press/Manuel Balce
Food and Drug Administration building is shown Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020 in Silver Spring, Md. A U.S. government advisory panel convened to decide whether to endorse emergency use of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to help conquer the outbreak that has killed close to 300,000 Americans.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — There is a new COVID-19 vaccine available on the market, and it looks a little different than its predecessors.

The newly-FDA-authorized Novavax vaccine uses traditional virus-blocking technology that has been used against other diseases for decades, such as Hepatitis B and tetanus.

Unlike the other COVID-19 vaccines, Novavax injects the spike protein directly into the body, rather than using mRNA technology.

Dr. John Goldman, an infectious disease expert at UPMC, said most people have gotten a similar shot. 

“It's basically the same type of vaccine that you get for the flu and similar to other standard childhood vaccines,” Goldman said.

Health experts said Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine could help address religious arguments made for exemptions.

“People that that is their specific religious objection, should feel comfortable getting this vaccine because there were no cell line—no human cell lines—used and no cell lines derived from aborted tissue," Goldman said. "If that is the religious objection, this vaccine addresses that objection.”

However, legal experts said people that do ask for religious exemptions may face some complications. 

“Now you don't have that reason," said Scott Cooper, lawyer and partner at Schmidt and Kramer, "What's the actual reason? And what's the religion?”

Cooper also said at-will employees could risk termination if they refuse to get any of the four vaccines on the market.

The Novavax vaccine comes in two doses like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Anyone 12 or older is eligible to get it.

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