Novavax COVID vaccine 90 percent effective, study says

A late-stage study in the US and Mexico finds Novavax shot effective against the coronavirus and new variants.

The Novavax vaccine is easy to store and transport [File: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP]

Vaccine maker Novavax says its shot is highly effective against the coronavirus and also protected against variants in a large, late-stage study in the United States and Mexico, in a major boost to global immunisation efforts.

The vaccine was about 90-percent effective overall and preliminary data showed it was safe, the company said on Monday.

While demand for COVID-19 shots in the US has dropped dramatically, the need for more vaccines around the world remains critical.

The Novavax vaccine, which is easy to store and transport, is expected to play an important role in boosting vaccine supplies in the developing world.

That is still months away, however. The company says it plans to seek authorisation for the shots in the US, Europe and elsewhere by the end of September and be able to produce up to 100 million doses a month by then.

“Many of our first doses will go to … low- and middle-income countries, and that was the goal, to begin with,” Novavax Chief Executive Stanley Erck told The Associated Press news agency.

Vaccine inequality

While more than half the US population has had at least one COVID vaccine dose, less than 1 percent of people in the developing world have had one shot, according to Our World In Data.

Novavax’s study involved nearly 30,000 people ages 18 and up in the US and Mexico. Two-thirds received two doses of the vaccine, three weeks apart, and the rest got dummy shots.

There were 77 cases of COVID – 14 in the group that got the vaccine and the rest in volunteers who received dummy shots.

None in the vaccine group had moderate or severe disease, compared with 14 in the placebo group.

The vaccine was similarly effective against several variants, including the alpha variant first detected in the United Kingdom and widespread in the US, and in high-risk populations including the elderly and people with other health problems.

Side effects were mostly mild – tenderness and pain at the injection site. There were no reports of unusual blood clots or heart problems, Erck said.

Novavax reported the results in a press release and plans to publish them in a medical journal, where they will be vetted by independent experts.

The Maryland-based company previously released findings from smaller studies in Britain and South Africa.

COVID-19 vaccines train the body to recognise the coronavirus, especially the spike protein that coats it, and get ready to fight the virus off.

The Novavax vaccine is made with lab-grown copies of that protein.

The Novavax vaccine can be stored in standard refrigerators, making it easier to distribute.

Novavax previously announced manufacturing delays due to supply shortages.

Production goals

The company now expects to reach production of 100 million doses a month by the end of September and 150 million doses a month by December.

It has committed to supplying 110 million doses to the US over the next year and a total of 1.1 billion doses to developing countries.

In May, vaccines alliance Gavi announced it had signed an agreement to buy 350 million doses of Novavax’s vaccine, with deliveries estimated to begin in the third quarter.

COVAX, the global initiative to provide vaccines to countries, is facing a critical shortage of vaccines after its biggest supplier in India suspended exports until the end of the year.

Novavax has been working on developing vaccines for more than 30 years but has not brought one to market.

The company’s coronavirus vaccine work is partly funded by the US government.

Source: AP