Novavax vaccine trial 'shows efficacy against Covid-19 UK, SA variants'

Ernest Mabuza Journalist
The Novavax vaccine being tested in SA has demonstrated not only high clinical efficacy against the virus that causes Covid-19, but also significant clinical effectiveness against both the rapidly emerging South African and UK variants.
The Novavax vaccine being tested in SA has demonstrated not only high clinical efficacy against the virus that causes Covid-19, but also significant clinical effectiveness against both the rapidly emerging South African and UK variants.
Image: 123RF/David Izquierdo Roger

The Novavax vaccine has demonstrated not only high clinical efficacy against the prototype SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, but also significant clinical effectiveness against both the rapidly emerging South African and UK variants.

This was revealed by the Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit (Vida) at Wits University on Thursday.

It said in the SA Phase 2b clinical trial, 60% efficacy for the prevention of mild, moderate and severe Covid-19 disease was observed in the 94% of the study population that was HIV negative. The phase 2b is the safety and efficacy study of the vaccine.

“The higher efficacy of the vaccine in the UK than in South Africa is because the variants circulating in SA are less sensitive to vaccine induced immune responses,” said Prof Shabir Madhi, executive director of the Vida research unit at Wits, and principal investigator in the Novavax Covid-19 vaccine trial in SA.

He said the 60% reduced risk against Covid-19 illness in vaccinated individuals in South Africans underscored the value of this vaccine to prevent illness from the highly worrisome variant currently circulating in SA and which was spreading globally.

“This is the only Covid-19 vaccine for which we now have objective evidence that it protects against the variant dominating in SA,” Madhi said.

This study enrolled more than 4,400 patients beginning in August 2020.

“I am encouraged to see that Novavax plans to immediately begin clinical development on a vaccine specifically targeted at the variant, which together with the current vaccine is likely to form the cornerstone of the fight against Covid-19.”

Madhi said Novavax initiated development of new constructs against the emerging strains in early January and expects to select ideal candidates for a booster and/or combination bivalent vaccine for the new strains in the coming days.

The company plans to initiate clinical testing of these new vaccines in the second quarter of this year.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations funded the manufacturing of doses of the Novavax Vaccine, known as NVX-CoV2373, for this Phase 2b clinical trial, which was supported in part by a $15m grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

More than 37,000 participants have participated to date across four different clinical studies in five countries.

NVX-CoV2373 is being evaluated in two pivotal Phase 3 trials: a trial in the UK that completed enrolment in November, and trials in the US and Mexico that began in December.

Phase 3 trials are meant to evaluate how the new medication works in comparison to existing medications for the same condition.

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