The Other Other Vaccine

While Australia has enough Pfizer vaccines on order to vaccinate 5 million high-priority individuals, it’s not yet clear which vaccine the rest of the country will be receiving. The Oxford-AstraZeneca appeared most likely, having already begun to be rolled out in the UK since December. But a dispute over manufacturing supplies between the UK and EU – as well as concerns over the AstraZeneca vaccine’s efficacy among the elderly – are pushing other candidates to the front.

How Effective is the Novavax Vaccine? 

Australia has 50 million doses of the Novavax vaccine on order. Between the Pfizer vaccine, which is already approved for use in Australia, and the AstraZeneca vaccine which could be manufactured locally, Novavax has always been considered a third option. With its recent results, however, it may end up leap-frogging AstraZeneca into second place on our roll-out list.

In a press release late last week, Novavax announced its vaccine was 89.3% effective at preventing Covid-19, based on a study conducted in the UK. What this means is that among the study cohort of 15,000, there were 62 Covid-positive cases. Of these, 56 had received the placebo vaccine while just six had been vaccinated. From this, the authors derive an 89.3% reduction in Covid-19 cases amongst those who were vaccinated.

Significantly, the study was conducted in the UK and the results stack up against the UK mutation of the coronavirus. According to Novavax, “efficacy by strain was calculated to be 95.6% against the original COVID-19 strain and 85.6% against the UK variant strain.”

Novavax is based in the small English town of Stockton.

Less positively, reporting on studies underway in South Africa, Novavax said the vaccine appears to be only 60% effective against the virus strain there. This highlights the need for global vaccine roll-out to be done as quickly as possible, before any future virus mutations arise to disrupt vaccination development further.

In this sense, the Novavax vaccine is particularly welcome. According to Al Edwards of the University of Reading, the Novavax “biosynthetic protein” vaccine is “arguably the simplest yet to manufacture. It is very amenable to creating more stable and easier to distribute vaccine products.”

Being of a different type to the mRNA vaccines of Pfizer and Moderna and the viral vector vaccine of AstraZeneca, Novavax vaccine production can also be scaled up drawing on an entirely different manufacturing infrastructure. So the Novavax success is good news not just for Australia but for humanity as a whole.

If you enjoyed this article, you can follow Christian on Twitter.