Novavax COVID jab ‘could save UK money on boosters’

by Stephen Riddle

The approval of Novavax’ COVID-19 vaccine in Great Britain could help the country save a “considerable amount of money” if it is used in future booster campaigns, according to the former chair of UK Vaccine Taskforce.

Dr Clive Dix said that Nuvaxovid has excellent clinical data and – as a it has good stability at fridge temperatures – could be easily rolled out with the flu vaccine next winter, and should “replace the need to buy more Pfizer and Moderna vaccine.”

Nuvaxovid was approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) yesterday, becoming the fifth COVID-19 vaccine to be authorised in the UK. In August 2020, the UK government agreed a deal with Novavax to purchase 60 million doses of the vaccine.

It is being manufactured at a facility in Teesside owned by FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies, although a report in The Times suggests that any initial supplies will be imported from India, where it is made under license by Serum Institute.

The two-shot vaccine uses a conventional recombinant protein technology, making it more temperature stable than Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA-based shots which have to be kept in a deep freeze.

It was shown to be 89% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in phase 3 trials carried out in the US and Mexico, in the same ballpark as its mRNA rivals.

Along with the UK, Nuvaxovid has also been approved in the EU and by the World Health Organisation (WHO), as well as other countries including Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, India and Indonesia. It was also filed in the US earlier this month after development and manufacturing setbacks.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will now consider its use, and could be added to the vaccination strategy immediately if the outcome is positive.

The initial approval is in adults, but Novavax has said it will file Nuvaxovid for the over 12s in the coming weeks, as well as data on use as a booster. The shot has also been included in a UK ‘mix and match’ study to see if it can be used as third dose in people who have already received the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccines.

While Nuvaxovid was developed based on the spike protein of the original Wuhan strain of SARS-CoV-2, cross protection also seems to be high against variants of concern, including the new Omicron strain, according to its developer, which has also started working on a version specific to the new variant.

“We are proud that Nuvaxovid will be the first protein-based vaccine option authorized by MHRA as the UK tackles this next phase of the pandemic,” said Stanley Erck, Novavax’ chief executive.

“We thank the agency for its thorough review process and are tremendously grateful to the clinical trial participants and trial sites in the UK, as well as the Vaccines Taskforce, for their ongoing support and vital contributions to this programme.”

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