As the Covid vaccination campaign continues in our country, a new product should be available soon. The Novavax vaccine could be licensed by the end of the year. How is it different from the others? And is it so effective? Here’s the light from an infectious disease specialist.
“Is it possible to make a report on the new Novavax vaccine that will be available soon? We hardly talk about it,” asks Simon, a fake name, through the orange button. Notify us about RTL info
Currently, four Covid vaccines are licensed in the European Union: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson. In Belgium, only the first two are still inoculated because experts have realized that they are more effective in fighting the delta variant, which today is predominant in our country.
An application for authorization examined at European level
Soon, a fifth vaccine may be available: Novavax Nuvaxovid (also known as NVX-CoV2373). A few days ago, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced that it had begun to evaluate an application for a marketing authorization in the EU for this vaccine manufactured by the American biotechnology company Novavax. It will be marketed under the name Covovax.
As a reminder, messenger RNA vaccines, those currently licensed, do not contain attenuated or inactivated viruses, but rather certain types of genetic information that instruct our bodies to produce copies of the spike protein of the coronavirus. This helps prepare our immune system in case of virus infection.
Spike protein is the protein that allows Covid to enter and multiply in human cells, leading to the onset of the disease.
A “slightly more traditional” vaccine with a different technology
Novavax is a vaccine that uses different technologies to trigger a virus-free immune response. “It is a slightly more traditional vaccine than mRNA or adenovirus vaccines because it directly contains the Spike protein instead of the genetic code that our cells will use to produce this protein. It is made by insect cells. In large quantities”, explains Charlotte Martin . infectious disease specialist at CHU Saint-Pierre in Brussels. “It is a technology that is already used for certain vaccines on the market, for human and veterinary use,” adds the infectious disease specialist.
It was necessary to add an adjuvant
On the other hand, according to Charlotte Martin, experts know that using a single protein to boost the immune system is generally not very effective. “Therefore, it was necessary to add an adjuvant to this protein to better stimulate the immune system,” he explains.
The serum of this vaccine can be stored at a temperature between 2 and 8 degrees. This could facilitate its distribution, especially in less developed countries.
How effective is it?
But is Novavax as effective as the other vaccines currently available?
“It has been tested, like most Covid vaccines, in fairly large patient populations. At least 30,000 patients. It has shown 90% efficacy against the symptomatic form of Covid and almost 100% against severe forms,” he replies. Charlotte Martin.
However, these figures should be viewed with caution. “Unfortunately, this was before the appearance of the delta variant and there has been no ‘real life’ data since then,” emphasizes the infectious disease specialist. “Since delta is quite a different variant of the initial virus, all models predict that vaccines based on the parent virus will be or will be less effective. But it is not clear how much,” he adds.
As with other vaccines, there is also evidence that a third dose of Novavax produces very high antibody levels.
A solution for allergy sufferers?
According to Simon, our whistleblower, this new vaccine is “expected” by a large number of people because “they have contraindications to current vaccines such as Pfizer or Moderna.” Some react allergic to messenger RNA vaccines.
Novavax contains polysorbate, as does AstraZeneca
However, Dr. Charlotte Martin is cautious about it. “You have to be very careful with this notion. In fact, one of the only contraindications to vaccination with other Covid vaccines is allergy to PEG, which is a component of the nanoparticles contained in the vaccine. It is very rare but it does exist. In this case, administration of a vaccine containing polysorbate is often not recommended either, depending on allergies. However, Novavax contains polysorbate, as does AstraZeneca “, assures the infectious disease specialist.
A more “reliable” vaccine technology?
According to Simon, people who have not yet been vaccinated against Covid are also waiting for the commercialization of this new product, which is more “reliable” in their eyes. “These people believe that we have more long-term data on this vaccine technology,” he says.
Dr. Charlotte Martin confirms that recombinant protein-based vaccines have been around the longest. An example is the vaccine against hepatitis B. “The manufacturing system of these proteins through insect cells is already used, for example, for Cervarix, the HPV vaccine approved by the EMA in 2007 or for a vaccine used to treat prostate cancer ”, adds the infectious diseases specialist, while specifying that the phase III study for Cervarix enrolled 1,400 patients compared to 40,000 for the Covid Pfizer vaccine. Therefore, the number of patients is much higher.
There will also be new variants and therefore new versions of these vaccines will be needed.
Finally, it will be necessary to plan a 3me dose after the first two injections, as is likely to be the case with other Covid vaccines?
“This is almost certainly given the technology used and the data already available,” responds Charlotte Martin. In addition, the additional doses are used in more frail or older people to improve good protection against serious forms, in younger people to better protect the symptomatic and contagious forms ”, continues the infectious diseases specialist. “But make no mistake, there will also be new variants and, therefore, new versions of these vaccines will be needed,” he concludes.
Orders already completed
In any case, the Novavax will likely be available on fairly short notice. Last August, the European Commission announced that it had entered into a contract with Novavax for the advance purchase of 200 million doses of its vaccine once approved by the European Medicines Agency. The EMA said in mid-November that an advisory could be issued “in a few weeks.” “The evaluation will be carried out on an accelerated schedule,” the European regulator said.
I questioned Dirk Ramaekers, head of the group of travail sur la vaccination, to confreres with Het Laatste Nieuws, to estimate that the Novavax pourra être administered dans notre pays “aux 500 à 1.000 persons who reagissent mal aux vaccins à ARN messagers” avant la fin of the year.
In early November, Indonesia was the first country to authorize the Novavax vaccine.
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