Novavax Inc. said Thursday that its COVID-19 vaccine appears to be 89% effective based on early findings from a British study, and it appears to also work – though not as well – against circulating new variants of the coronavirus. in that country and South Africa.
Questions have been raised as to whether the various vaccines being applied around the world have the ability to protect against new variants, at a time when new types of inoculations are urgently needed to increase scarce supplies.
The study of 15,000 people in Britain is still ongoing. However, an interim analysis found that 62 of the participants have so far been diagnosed with COVID-19. Of them, only six received the vaccine and the rest a placebo.
The infections occurred at a time when Britain was experiencing a large increase in COVID-19 cases due to a more contagious variant. According to a preliminary analysis, more than half of the study participants who were infected had the version that had mutated. The figures are very small, but Novavax pointed out that they suggest that the vaccine is almost 96% effective against the oldest coronavirus and almost 86% against the new variant.
Scientists are even more concerned about a variant first discovered in South Africa that has different mutations, and results from a smaller Novavax study suggest that the vaccine does work, but not as well as against the British variant.
The South African study included some volunteers with HIV. Among those who tested negative for HIV, the vaccine appears to be 60% effective. If you include volunteers whose immune systems are compromised, protection reached 49% overall, the company noted. Although genetic testing is still ongoing, so far about 90% of the COVID-19 illnesses found in the study in South Africa appear to be due to the new mutation.
Preliminary findings could help Novavax get its vaccine licensed in Britain, but the US government is funding a much larger study in which volunteers are still being recruited.
Vaccines against COVID-19 train the body to recognize the new coronavirus, mainly the spiky protein that covers it. However, the Novavax candidate inoculation is manufactured differently than the first doses used. Called a recombinant protein vaccine, the Maryland company uses genetic engineering to produce innocuous copies of the coronavirus spiked protein in insect cells. Scientists extract and purify the protein, then mix it into a chemical that boosts immunity.
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