In news that brought cheer in the fight against Covid-19, Novavax’s Covid-19 jab is more than 90 percent effective, including against coronavirus variants, the vaccine maker said Monday after a large-scale US study. The jab “demonstrated 100% protection against moderate and severe disease, 90.4% efficacy overall,” the company said in a statement, adding “the study enrolled 29,960 participants across 119 sites in the U.S. and Mexico to evaluate efficacy, safety, and immunogenicity.” While demand for Covid-19 shots in the U.S. has dropped off 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.
Here’s all you need to know about the vaccine:
How does it work?
In the Novavax vaccine, researchers have inserted a modified gene into a virus, called a baculovirus, and allowed it to infect insect cells. The infected cells then produced spike proteins that spontaneously joined together to form spikes, as they do on the surface of the coronavirus. Spike proteins from these cells are assembled into nanoparticles and are then injected into the body via the vaccine where the immune system mounts an antibody response so that if the body encounters coronavirus in future, its immune system is ready to fight it off effectively. The vaccine is given in two doses, 21 days apart.
A similar method of growing and harvesting virus proteins is already used to make licensed vaccines for diseases including influenza and Human papillomavirus (HPV).
The Novavax vaccine is expected to cost Rs 1,114 per dose.
How effective is the vaccine?
Preliminary data showed vaccine is 90% effective and safe, according to the company. Side effects included headache, fatigue, and muscle pain and were generally mild.
While Covaxin developed by Bharat Biotech has an efficacy rate of 78 per cent, International clinical trials of SII’s Covishield showed that when people were given a half dose and then a full dose, effectiveness hit 90 per cent.
Russia’s Sputnik V gives around 92 per cent protection against Covid-19, late-stage trial results published in The Lancet reveal.
Role in mitigating pandemic in developing world
The vaccine has showed success among the high-risk populations — defined as over age 65, under age 65 with certain comorbidities or having life circumstances with frequent COVID-19 exposure.
Doses for the two-shot regimen need to be stored between two to eight degrees Celsius. Thus, the vaccine, which is easy to store and transport, is expected to play an important role in boosting vaccine supplies, especially in developing countries.
Novavax will prioritise developing countries for the initial supplies of its Covid-19 vaccine, the Chief Executive Officer of the American biotechnology company said on Monday.
“It should be noted… that, given that we’ve got a commitment of 1.1 billion doses with COVAX along with our partner Serum Institute (of India), a lot of our first doses are going to go into low- and middle-income countries, as they should,” CEO Stanley C Erck said in a conference call on Monday after announcing the vaccine’s performance in phase 3 trials in the United States and Mexico.
Status in India
India is likely to proceed with the rollout of Novavax soon with Serum Institute as manufacturing partner on the basis of strong interim data. According to a report by Times of India, 20 crore Novavax shots (five crore a month) can be available during September-December and the number may rise.
Novavax, named Covavax in India, is in advanced stages of Phase 2/3 “observer-blinded, randomised, active-controlled” bridging trials with SII enrolling 1,600 participants over 18 years across 15 centres. SII has also indicated an interest in conducting trials in children. It may well vaccine be possible that India becomes the first country for the launch of the vaccine.
The official said that the government is looking at an August-September timeline for the first lot of supplies of Covavax, if the regulatory processes advance smoothly.
Niti Aayog Member (Health) and Chair of the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration (NEGVAC) Dr VK Paul last month said Serum Institute of India (SII) intends to begin clinical trial of the Novavax vaccine on children and Bharat Biotech has received permission for pediatric trial. “Covaxin has received permission, they will start pediatric trial, I think they’re going all the way to 2 years of age in a systematic way. I’ve been told SII wants to begin pediatric trial of Novavax,” he told ANI.