Novavax: A New COVID Vaccine?

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, countries are urging their citizens to get vaccinated. This has given many pharmaceutical companies the market to develop new vaccines. This month, Novavax has announced successful results from its phase 3 trial, signaling that it may be available as a vaccine alternate around the end of this year.

While previous vaccines have employed the use of COVID mRNA or attenuated virus to trigger the immune system into learning how to respond to subsequent infection, Novavax’s vaccine contains the COVID Spike protein antigen with an adjuvant that can induce an antibody response.

The Novavax Trial

The company tested this technology in a 30,000 participant trial held in the US and Mexico. One-third of them received a placebo. The U.S government funded the trial through a $1.6 billion grant called Operation Warp Speed. They found that between January and April, 77 of their participants contracted COVID, 63 of who had received the placebo. Meanwhile, the 14 vaccinated participants only experienced mild symptoms. This brought the vaccine’s overall efficacy to 90.4%.

According to John Moore, a participant in the Novavax trial and an immunologist at Weill Cornell Medicine, the vaccine’s lower efficacy compared to bigwigs Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna is a result of its later trial as the disease has since evolved into different variants. This should not deter people from taking it as “It’s essentially 100% protective against disease.”

However, Novavax previously held two other trials in the UK and South Africa against the Alpha and Beta variants. While the vaccine showed an optimistic 86% efficacy against the Alpha variant, the result was different against the Beta which reduced its overall efficacy to only 49%. To check this, Novavax also sequenced the disease’s variants from 54 of the 77 participants in the North American trial who contracted it. Since then, they are working on a Beta variant-focused vaccine that has been successful in an animal trial.

The new vaccine has many perks that may help its market value. Distributers can store it in a refrigerator which helps them dispatch the vaccine to lower resource countries. It also produces fewer side effects as demonstrated by the North American trial participants, only 40% of who reported headache and muscle pains. Mayank Mamtani, a biotechnology analyst puts this in a clear way. “You don’t have to cancel all your meetings” after receiving the shot!

Source: Science Translational Magazine


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