Novavax vaccine performs well—including against variants

The COVID-19 news world saw a return of Monday-morning vaccine results this week. Novavax, a small biotech company based in Maryland, announced that its vaccine demonstrated 90% overall efficacy and 100% protection against moderate and severe COVID-19 disease.

These results come from a trial conducted in the U.S. and Mexico between January and April this year, at a time when the Alpha (or B.1.1.7) variant was becoming dominant here. Among almost 30,000 trial participants, 77 cases were observed: 63 in the placebo group and 14 in the vaccine group, for an efficacy of 90.4%. All of the moderate and severe cases (ten moderate, four severe) were observed in the placebo group.

Novavax even sequenced samples from 54 out of the 77 cases. The majority of those sequenced cases were variants of concern or variants of interest; Novavax’s vaccine demonstrated 93.2% efficacy against variants of concern/interest and 100% efficacy against non-concerning variants. This finding aligns with other vaccine studies suggesting that the COVID-19 vaccines developed on older versions of the virus still work well against variants, especially at protecting against severe disease and death.

This new vaccine uses a coronavirus protein—a different method from both Moderna/Pfizer (mRNA vaccines) and AstraZeneca/Johnson & Johnson (adenovirus vaccines). It’s given in two doses, three weeks apart. It had far fewer side effects than other COVID-19 vaccines, with small numbers of participants reporting sore arms and fatigue.

The Novavax vaccine is also comparatively easier to transport and store than other viruses; it can be stored at refrigerated temperatures. While it’s unlikely to be used in the U.S., it could be critical for vaccine rollouts in other parts of the world.

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