Photo: The Guardian.
Photo: The Guardian.

Nonavax’s efficiency

Nonavax is another vaccine against Covid, trialled in the UK , has been shown to be nearly 90% effective and to work against the UK and South African variants of the virus, according to The Guardian.

The UK vaccines taskforce has bought 60m doses of the Novavax vaccine, one of seven in its portfolio, and it will be manufactured on Teesside in the UK. If it is given emergency authorisation by the UK regulator, it could boost the country’s immunisation programme and solve the potential problems over the supply of the other two vaccines in use.

Results show that the Novavax vaccine, which has been going through late-stage trials in the last few months, is highly protective against variant of coronavirus that emerged in Kent. It also gives some protection – though less – against the variant causing even more concern in South Africa, which scientists think may be capable of evading the vaccines currently in use.

The US -based Novavax said the results of its phase 3 final trials in the UK, involving 15,000 people, showed 89.3% efficacy. Almost 4,000 people in the study (27%) were in the over-65 age group, who are most at risk from the virus. Half the cases of Covid in the trial were identified as caused by the variant that emerged in Kent, known as B117.

Half of those involved were given a placebo. Among the participants, there were six cases of symptomatic Covid in those given the vaccine and 56 in those who were not.

The vaccine had higher efficacy against the original coronavirus, 95.6%, and 85.6% against the UK variant – so 89.3% overall.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said:

The results from the UK trial of Novavax’s vaccine look extremely promising, and I welcome the news that the company is planning to submit its data to the regulators, Gov.UK cited.

The UK moved quickly to procure 60 million doses from Novavax and I’m pleased to confirm the bulk of the vaccine will be manufactured on Teesside and delivered during this year, if approved for use.

From the scientists and researchers to the thousands of UK trial volunteers, I am enormously grateful to everyone who is playing their part in this truly national effort to defeat this virus once and for all.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said:

This is positive news and, if approved by the medicines regulator, the Novavax vaccine will be a significant boost to our vaccination programme and another weapon in our arsenal to beat this awful virus.

I’m proud the UK is at the forefront of another medical breakthrough and I want to thank the brilliant scientists and researchers, as well as the tens of thousands of selfless volunteers who took park in clinical trials.

The NHS stands ready to roll this vaccine out as quickly as possible to those most at risk if it is authorised.

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said:

Having taken part in Novavax’s vaccine trial myself, I am particularly thrilled to see such positive results. I want to thank the thousands of trial volunteers, without whom these results would not have been possible.

It will now be for the regulator to do its crucial work in assessing the efficacy and safety of this vaccine, but if approved it will be a further boost to our vaccination programme.

Novavax’s candidate differs from those currently being used in the UK, combining an engineered protein from the virus that causes COVID-19 with a plant-based ingredient to help generate a stronger immune response. Having a diverse portfolio of vaccines increases the chances of ensuring there is a vaccine available for everyone across the UK.

How does the vaccine work?

New coronavirus vaccine could be approved amid 89 per cent efficacy in trials
New coronavirus vaccine could be approved amid 89 per cent efficacy in trials.

The Novavax vaccine works like other vaccines by teaching the immune system to make antibodies to the coronavirus spike protein, Herald Scotlands.

Researchers inserted a modified gene into a virus, called a baculovirus, and allowed it to infect insect cells.

Spike proteins from these cells were then assembled into nanoparticles which, while they look like coronavirus, cannot replicate or cause Covid-19.

These nanoparticles are then injected into the body via the vaccine where the immune system mounts an antibody response.

If the body encounters coronavirus in the future, the body is primed to fend it off.

Novavax vaccine’s advantages?

While the jabs from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna need to be kept at ultra-low temperatures, the Novavax jab is stable for up to three months in a normal fridge.

The jab should be available in the second half of this year and is being manufactured in Teeside.

*Read More: Can Pregnant Women Get a COVID-19 Vaccine?

Was the jab tested in the UK?

More than 15,000 people in the UK took part in the clinical trial, which was supported by the UK National Institute for Health Research.

Some 27% of those in the UK were over the age of 65.

The study assessed how effective the vaccine was when transmission of Covid-19 was high in the UK, and with the variant strain identified in the UK circulating widely.

The UK has so far approved three coronavirus vaccines for emergency use - one from Oxford University and AstraZeneca, another by Pfizer and BioNTech, and a third from drug firm Moderna.

The Novavax jab, which is given in two doses, was shown to be 89.3% effective at preventing Covid-19 in participants in its Phase 3 clinical trial in the UK.

The Phase 3 trials - the final stage before a vaccine is looked at by a regulator - enrolled more than 15,000 people aged between 18-84, of whom 27% were older than 65, US firm Novavax said.

The analysis, based on the first 62 cases of Covid-19 identified in the trial, reported 56 cases in people given a placebo (dummy) vaccine while six cases were in those given the vaccine.

More than 50% of cases related to the UK strain of the virus, with the vaccine offering 86% protection against this strain.

Against the original strain that has circulated since the start of the pandemic, the vaccine was 96% effective.

Nonavax’s Availablity

Novavax's vaccine candidate is generating a lot of interest because early animal study data showed that it was highly effective at preventing replication of the coronavirus in nasal passages.4 It is an important development for COVID vaccines since it may help reduce both infection and transmission rates. Although, this has not yet been established in human studies.

However, Novavax is behind its competitors when it comes to clinical trials so even if it does well in trials, the vaccine may not be available until late 2021. The company has not released any estimates on distribution dates yet. The company itself also faces a significant challenge since 2019 was a difficult year for Novavax. Science magazine reported that the company sold some of its manufacturing facilities and has to rely on more contractors to manufacture many of its vaccines. This could result in a delay in production.

No information has been provided yet about the price of the vaccine.

Differs from other Covid-19 vaccines

The Novavax vaccine is different from the Oxford/AstraZeneca or the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines. It contains spike proteins, produced by moth cells infected with a genetically modified virus, together with a substance called an adjuvant which boosts the immune response. However, like the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab it can be stored at between 2 and 8C, meaning it requires only normal refrigeration, making it easier to deliver it to patients.

Novavax, like the other manufacturers, has initiated a rolling review of its data with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority. The regulator has been scrutinising the data from lab work and early trials since mid-January, to speed up the approval process. Other vaccines have been approved within weeks of publication of their final results.

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