Washington, United States:
The US biotech company Novavax said on Thursday that its two-shot vaccine against Covid-19 had shown an overall effectiveness of 89.3 percent in a large clinical phase 3 study in the UK and was against a variant first identified there still highly effective.
However, the positive news was partially offset by other results that showed it offered significantly less protection against a highly transmissible variant of the coronavirus, first identified in South Africa, which is spreading rapidly around the world.
Novavax started work on new vaccines against emerging strains in early January and expects to select ideal candidates in the coming days and then begin clinical trials in the second quarter of the year.
“NVX-CoV2373 has the potential to play an important role in solving this global public health crisis,” said the company’s President and CEO Stanley Erck, using the Novavax name for the vaccine.
“We look forward to continuing to work with our partners, employees, investigators and regulators around the world to make the vaccine available as soon as possible.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that the results were “good news“.
“Our Medicines Agency will now evaluate the vaccine, which is made in Teesside. If approved, we will have 60 million doses to order,” he added.
The vaccine was one of six candidates backed by a U.S. government project formerly known as Operation Warp Speed that provided the company with $ 1.75 billion. It’s also being tested in a study in the United States and Mexico that included 16,000 out of 30,000 participants.
Unlike the Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines, which provide the genetic instructions that human cells use to create a key protein in the virus, the Novavax shot injects the proteins directly into the body to create an immune response.
“Still pretty good” against B.1.351
The UK trial involved 15,000 people aged 18 to 84, including 27 percent who were over 65 years of age.
The first interim analysis was based on 62 cases, of which 56 cases of Covid-19 were observed in the placebo group versus six cases in people who received NVX-CoV2373.
The company’s preliminary analysis found that variant B.1.1.7, first identified in the UK, was found in more than 50 percent of confirmed cases.
The effectiveness by strain was calculated to be 95.6 percent compared to the original Covid strain and 85.6 percent compared to B.1.1.7.
However, at a smaller intermediate stage carried out in South Africa, the level of protection was lower.
A little more than 4,400 patients took part in this study from September to mid-January. During this time, variant B.1.351, which contains critical mutations along the virus’ spike protein, spread rapidly across the country.
The overall effectiveness in this study was 49.4 percent, but in 94 percent of the HIV-negative study participants the number rose to 60 percent.
Worryingly, Novavax said that about a third of the participants in the South Africa study had previously been infected with the original form of the virus, while most of the subsequent infections during the study were from the variant.
Amesh Adalja, a doctor and senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Safety, told AFP it was important to keep an eye on the decreased effectiveness and the vaccine was still a success.
“Sixty percent against the variant is still pretty good,” he said. “The Novavax vaccine clearly prevented serious diseases, which is ultimately most important.”
The studies are the first to assess the real world performance of a Covid-19 vaccine in both the UK and South Africa.
Pfizer and Moderna previously said their vaccines would remain effective against the variants, but their studies were based on laboratory research.
The U.S. said Thursday it had found its first two cases of the B.1.351 variant on American soil, raising concerns that it could restart the current declining national infection rate.
Novavax’s announcement puts pressure on another vaccine maker, Johnson & Johnson, which is expected to announce its Phase 3 study results next week.
(This story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)