Novavax COVID-19 vaccine

Also called Nuvaxovid

Key points about Novavax COVID-19 vaccine

  • The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine protects against the COVID-19 virus.
  • It is available for people aged 12 years and older who would like a different option to the preferred Pfizer vaccine.
  • Find out about it and possible side effects.
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Novavax vaccine protects against COVID–19.  Vaccination means that if you become infected you're far less likely to become seriously ill, need to go to hospital or spread the virus to others.

The vaccine stimulates your body’s immune system to produce antibodies to help fight the virus that causes COVID-19. None of the ingredients in this vaccine can cause COVID-19.

May 2024: Update on the availability of Novavax in Aotearoa New Zealand 

All stock of Novavax in New Zealand expired at the end of April 2024 and the new Novavax XBB.1.5 vaccine is being evaluated by Medsafe for use in New Zealand. It's expected to be available soon. 

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the Novavax vaccine is available for:

  • young people aged 12 years and older: For their primary course of COVID-19 vaccine (a primary course is generally 2 doses, 3 weeks or more apart). 
  • adults aged 18 years and older: For their primary vaccine course (2 doses, 3 weeks or more apart) and for a booster, 6 months or more later. 

Note: The Pfizer vaccine remains the preferred COVID-19 vaccine for use in Aotearoa New Zealand. Tamariki younger than 12 years can get the paediatric Pfizer vaccine. Pfizer COVID–19 vaccine in children 5 years old and over. 

The number of doses you need and the gap between the doses will depend on your age, whether you are getting your primary vaccine course or your booster, and whether you have a weakened immune system or not. Read more about the recommended timing gaps for different COVID-19 vaccines.(external link)

Novavax vaccine is injected into a muscle (usually in the upper arm) by a trained healthcare professional.

  • You will need to stay for at least 15 minutes afterwards so a healthcare worker can look out for you and make sure you are okay.
  • If you're fine after 15 minutes and you are feeling okay, you can leave and carry on with your day.

You shouldn't receive the Novavax vaccine if you've had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to this vaccine or its ingredients. Talk to your healthcare provider if you've recently received other vaccines; some need a 3–day gap before or after Novavax.

You can book your appointment to receive the Novavax vaccine at link)

If you select Novavax, a list of places where Novavax can be given will be displayed. Not all vaccination centres, clinics or pharmacies will have this vaccine.

If you’re unable to book online, you can call the COVID Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26 (8am–8pm, 7 days a week). They'll make the booking for you and answer any questions. Interpretation services are available if you need them.

It's best not to mix and match COVID–19 vaccines. If you get Novavax for the first injection, then you should also get it (and not the Pfizer vaccine) for the second dose and booster to complete your vaccination course.

If your first dose was Pfizer, you will need a prescription if you want to have Novavax for your next dose. Visits to a GP for a Novavax prescription are free. 

If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, think you may be pregnant or are planning to have a baby, talk to your healthcare provider about the Novavax vaccine. There is limited data about the Novavax vaccine during pregnancy or while breastfeeding so the Pfizer vaccine is the preferred choice at these times. Talk to your healthcare provider about this. Read more about COVID-19 vaccination and pregnancy.

Like all vaccines, the Novavax vaccine can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them.  It's important to drink plenty of fluids after your vaccination, and to rest – avoid going to the gym or strenuous exercise for a day or two afterwards. Side effects are more commonly reported after a second dose. 

 Side effects  What should I do?
  • Redness or pain at injection site
  • This is very common after having the vaccination.
  • Place a cold, wet cloth or ice pack on the injection site for a short time.
  • Don't rub or massage the injection site.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if it bothers you.
  • Flu–like symptoms
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle aches
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Nausea
  • These are quite common after having the vaccination.
  • They usually start within 6 to 48 hours after having the injection and get better within a day or two. 
  • Rest and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Avoid exercise such as going to the gym
  • Paracetamol or ibuprofen can be taken but follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Seek advice from your healthcare provider if your symptoms get worse.
  • Changes in blood glucose levels 
  • The vaccine can sometimes cause high or low blood glucose levels. 
  • If you have diabetes and are having insulin injections, monitor your blood glucose levels closely for the next few days after having the vaccine. 

Read more about medicines and side effects and reporting a reaction that you think might be a side effect.

Serious allergic reactions can occur but they're extremely rare. New Zealand vaccinators are trained to manage these. Most people with a history of anaphylaxis to other medicines, vaccines, foods and venom can be safely vaccinated.

Signs of an allergic reaction include skin rash, itching, swelling of your lips, face and mouth, or difficulty breathing or speaking. 

  • A trained healthcare professional will observe you for at least 15 minutes after being given the vaccine 
  • If these symptoms develop after that, go straight to the emergency department at your nearest hospital, or call 111 if your hospital is not nearby.

There have been very rare reports of myocarditis, pericarditis or both (myopericarditis) occurring after vaccination with the Novavax vaccine. 
Myocarditis is inflammation affecting the heart muscle. Pericarditis is inflammation of the lining around the heart. Myopericarditis is a mixture of myocarditis and pericarditis.

Although this side effect is rare, it can be serious. Symptoms of myocarditis or pericarditis linked to the vaccine generally appear within a few days, and mostly within the first few weeks after having the vaccine. Myocarditis is more likely to occur following a COVID-19 infection than after receiving the vaccine. Read more about COVID-19 vaccine side effects and reactions.(external link)

Seek medical attention if you experience any of the following in the first few weeks after your vaccination. 

  • Chest pain, discomfort, tightness or heaviness.
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
  • An abnormal heartbeat, a racing fluttering feeling or a feeling of skipped heart beats.
  • Feeling lightheaded, faint or dizzy.
These could be signs of myocarditis and pericarditis. If you have children, please watch them for any decreased activity and ask them to tell you about any symptoms. Children may not realise they have symptoms or may not talk about them without being asked.

For the latest reports on adverse events following immunisation with COVID-19 vaccines, see this overview of vaccine reports.(external link)

The following links have more information on Novavax vaccine.

Nuvaxovid COVID-19 vaccine(external link) Medsafe Consumer Information Sheet, NZ
Novavax(external link) Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora, 2024


  1. Nuvaxovid COVID-19 vaccine(external link) Medsafe, NZ
  2. Nuvaxovid (external link) IMAC, NZ
  3. Myocarditis and pericarditis have been reported with Nuvaxovid (Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine)(external link) Medsafe, NZ, 2022


novavax everything you need to know

Novavax – everything you need to know

Unite against COVID-19 and Ministry of Health, NZ, 2022

5 questions to ask about your medications

5 questions to ask about your medications

Health Quality and Safety Commission, NZ, 2019

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Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist, Healthify He Puna Waiora. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland

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