Novavax’s covid vaccine arrives in France: how is it different from Pfizer and Moderna?

Nuvaxovid, Novavax’s vaccine against covid, has just been validated in France.

After the vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen, a fifth vaccine will be added to the panoply of prevention against covid in France. In an opinion issued on January 14, 2022, the High Health Authority (HAS) expressed itself in favor of the Novavax vaccine, called Nuvaxovid. It comes to expand the paraphernalia, along with a reinforcement of the Janssen vaccine.

Novavax, new vaccine against covid


While Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines are based on messenger RNA biotechnology, Novavax’s is ‘classic’. It is based on the technique of recombinant proteins. Like the vaccines against hepatitis B or whooping cough (which have been used since the second half of the 20th century without any problem), the formula mobilizes proteins that reproduce the Spike protein of the coronavirus, and which are associated with an adjuvant. “These two components will promote the immune response of B and T lymphocytes against the Spike protein, and will stimulate the production of neutralizing antibodies”, recalls the HAS.

The HAS insists on its recommendation to favor messenger RNA vaccines, of proven efficacy and immunogenicity. But because these products are perceived as new, they sometimes create reluctance. In fact, the HAS considers that a classic vaccine like Novavax is a good option to give the choice. Therefore, the Novavax vaccine can be used as a primary vaccination for all persons over 18 years of age.

The injection is, like other vaccines, intramuscular. This is a simple puncture in the upper arm.

Novavax vaccine. // Source: Unplash/Piero Nigro (cropped photo)

Vaccination schedule

The vaccination schedule is based on 2 doses, spaced 3 weeks apart. (see the second part of the article for the rules of primary vaccination)

Side effects

As for the side effects, they are mild, short-lived and similar to those of other vaccines: tenderness and mild pain at the injection site, headaches, mild discomfort.

Efficacy of Novavax

Clinical trials have revealed good efficacy: 90.4% against symptomatic forms and 100% against severe forms of the disease. The phase 3 study was based on 26,000 participants, at 119 sites in the United States and Mexico. However, the efficacy against the Delta and Omicron variants has not yet been quantified, as they did not circulate as much during the study.


It can be stored between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius, in the refrigerator, protected from light, for a maximum of 6 months. Once the vial is opened, it is viable for up to six hours at room temperature (up to 25 degrees).

Primary vaccination methods with Novavax and Janssen

In its opinion issued on January 14, 2022, the HAS also asks to rehabilitate the Janssen vaccine (with a “non-replicating viral vector”, that is, with a harmless adenovirus modified with the coronavirus protein) in primary vaccination and modify the calendar of vaccination.

In fact, from the arrival of Novavax in France, new modalities in primary vaccination will be available, in addition to the usual schemes with Pfizer and Moderna.

People 55 years of age or older who have not yet been vaccinated can be vaccinated:

  • Either with the Janssen vaccine in a primary vaccination schedule with 2 doses spaced two months apart,
  • Or with Novavax’s Nuvaxovid® vaccine according to a primary vaccination schedule with 2 doses spaced three weeks apart.

People under 55 years of age who are not yet vaccinated can be vaccinated with:

  • The Novavax vaccine exclusively, according to a vaccination schedule of 2 doses spaced three weeks apart,
  • Exceptionally, i.e. if Novavax is not available and you do not want to opt for Pfizer or Moderna, Janssen’s vaccine may also be useful, after consultation with a doctor (Janssen’s vaccine is less well tolerated by people under 55 years).

People over 18 years of age who have received a dose of vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna, etc.) and refuse a second dose of the same vaccine:

  • It will be possible to complete the scheme with a second dose of Novavax.

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