Novavax vaccine trial results show its effective in fighting COVID-19—but it’s not all great news

novavax vaccine efficacy
Photo via Jernej Furman/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Novavax vaccine, one of several COVID-19 vaccine candidates currently undergoing clinical trials, is showing a nearly 90% efficacy in warding off the disease. It is, however, only showing 50% efficacy against the South African variant of the virus which has just emerged in the United States. 

Novavax—characterized by the New York Times as “a little-known company supported by the U.S. federal government’s Operation Warp Speed”—announced initial findings on Jan. 28 from trials conducted in Britain, South Africa, the U.S., and Mexico. The most promising Novavax vaccine numbers came from the trials involving 15,000 British people, showing nearly 90% efficacy for its two-dose vaccine. 

CNBC reported that the study also found that the vaccine had over 85% efficacy against the U.K. variant, aka B.1.1.7.

However, a smaller sample of 4,400 South Africans showed 50% efficacy, with most of the cases in that study resulting from the B.1.351 variant causing new concern among health officials. As the New York Times noted, nearly 6% of the trial’s participants were HIV-positive, and for those who weren’t, the vaccine had a 60% efficacy. 

Novavax is already underway with a new version of the vaccine in January to address a wider range of COVID-19 variants. The new version could serve either as a booster shot for previously-vaccinated people or could be given supplementally along with the first vaccine.

Novavax is in conversations with British officials about authorizing its vaccine, and it could potentially apply for use in the U.S. in April when its U.S. trial results are completed. The CNBC article noted that Novavax began a late-stage trial with 30,000 people in the U.S. and Mexico in late December. 

In July, the Trump administration announced it would pay Novavax $1.6 billion to develop and manufacture a potential vaccine. 

The two-dose vaccine, which involves doses given 21 days apart, contains synthesized pieces of the surface protein COVID-19 uses to infect humans. The company said the vaccine was well tolerated, adding that “severe, serious, and medically attended adverse events occurred at low levels and were balanced between vaccine and placebo groups.”

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Sources: New York Times, CNBC

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