What do we know about the Novavax vaccine?
The Government has agreed a deal with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) on the manufacture of up to 60 million doses of the Novavax coronavirus vaccine.
Here is what we know:
– How does the vaccine work?
The Novavax vaccine works like other vaccines by teaching the immune system to make antibodies to the coronavirus spike protein.
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.
The vaccine is given as two doses.
– Does the Novavax vaccine have any advantages?
Yes. 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.
– How effective is the vaccine?
According to results of a phase three trial in the UK, announced in March, the jab offers 100% protection against severe disease, including all hospital admission and death.
It is 86% effective against the Kent variant, the company behind it said, and it is also 96% effective in preventing cases caused by the original strain of the coronavirus.
The study in the UK enrolled more than 15,000 participants aged between 18 and 84, including 27% over the age of 65.
In participants aged 65 and older, 10 cases of Covid-19 were observed, with 90% of those cases occurring in the placebo group.
Results released in January by Novavax regarding its South Africa trial also showed 60% protection against mild, moderate or severe disease, where most cases were the South African variant of the virus.
– Where is it made?
The protein antigen component of the vaccine is produced in the north east of England by Novavax manufacturing partner Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, at its site in Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees.
GSK announced on Monday that it will provide “fill and finish” manufacturing capacity – preparing vials of the final vaccine and packaging them for distribution and use – at its Barnard Castle facility, also in the North East, beginning as early as May.
It said the “rapid technology transfer” between the two companies will begin immediately.
– Has the Novavax vaccine been approved?
Not yet. A rolling review is under way by the (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) MHRA to assess the vaccine.