Questions and Answers: Novavax – the vaccine for skeptics?

Status: 10.12.2021 7:57 a.m.

Novavax’s coronavirus vaccine can hope for EU approval soon. Many vaccine skeptics rely on this supposed “dead vaccine”. But is Novavax really a bearer of hope?

By Angela Göpfert,

In many media it is said again and again that Novavax has what it takes to convince even sworn vaccination skeptics. After all, Novavax is a “dead vaccine”. But is that even true? Here are answers to the most important questions about the Novavax vaccine Nuvaxovid (NVX-CoV2373).

When does the admission come?

So far, Novavax’s preparation has only been approved in Indonesia and the Philippines. In the past few weeks, however, the US company has submitted applications for approval in a number of other countries, including Great Britain, Canada, Australia – and the EU. There could be news here soon.

“Novavax’s vaccine could be approved in the near future,” said Emer Cooke, head of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), during a public meeting in Brussels before EU health ministers. The EMA had previously said that approval could be expected at the end of this year or at the beginning of 2022.

How effective is the Novavax vaccine?

According to a study published in summer with 30,000 participants, the corona vaccine from Novavax is highly effective with an effectiveness of 90 percent. Accordingly, it has a similarly strong effect as the already approved mRNA vaccines from BioNTech and Moderna.

How useful is Novavax cross vaccination?

In Germany, millions of people have already received corona vaccinations with other vaccines; worldwide there are several billion people. The result of a British study recently published in the journal “The Lancet” is all the more interesting.

According to this, in people who had received two doses of BioNTech as a basic vaccination, the antibodies were increased five-fold by a Novavax booster. That was roughly comparable to the effect of a Janssen or AstraZeneca booster. However, the immune response was even better with an mRNA booster: Here the antibodies rose by a factor of 8.1 (BioNTech) and 11.5 (Moderna), respectively.

What about Omicron?

The Novavax company is currently conducting studies to evaluate how effective its current corona vaccine against the Omikron variant is. In addition, it has already started developing an Omicron-specific vaccine construct.

Is Novavax a dead vaccine?

No, the new Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach recently made that clear on Twitter. A dead vaccine contains killed viruses or components thereof. Most flu vaccines, many vaccines against childhood diseases but also against rabies are dead vaccines. There are dead vaccines against Corona from Sinovac from China and Valneva from France. These contain the whole but inactivated virus.

Novavax, on the other hand, is a so-called recombinant protein vaccine. It contains tiny particles that consist of a laboratory-made version of the Sars-CoV-2 spike protein and are intended to boost the production of antibodies.

Could Novavax convince vaccine skeptics?

The protein-based technology – unlike mRNA – has been known for some time. It has been in use in the USA since 1986. Novavax could therefore arouse the interest of people who have reservations about immunization with mRNA vaccines or vector vaccines – even if there are now far more studies on the mRNA corona vaccines and these are far better tested than Novavax.

How fast can Novavax actually deliver?

As early as August, the EU Commission secured 200 million doses of the Novavax vaccine in the event that it receives EMA approval. The company sees itself in a position to produce more than two billion vaccine doses in 2022. But how trouble-free and quickly Novavax can actually produce and deliver its vaccine is uncertain – and one of the reasons why the US FDA has so far been reluctant to approve it. In the USA, the approval is largely related to whether companies can deliver their products without restrictions.

In contrast to BioNTech, Novavax, with just 800 employees, does not have a pharmaceutical giant like Pfizer behind it. To this end, Novavax recently entered into a collaboration with the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines.

Is Novavax a beacon of hope for poorer countries?

The vaccine from Novavax has one major advantage over mRNA vaccines: it is much easier to store and transport. Nuvaxovid has to be cooled at two to eight degrees Celsius, so a normal refrigerator is sufficient. That makes the vaccine a beacon of hope for poorer countries.

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