Novavax Covid vaccine proves 89% effective in trials - with 60 million doses on order

28 January 2021, 21:24 | Updated: 29 January 2021, 00:21

The Novavax vaccine was shown to be 89.3% effective in preventing coronavirus in participants
The Novavax vaccine was shown to be 89.3% effective in preventing coronavirus in participants. Picture: PA

By Megan White

An experimental Covid-19 vaccine from Novavax appears to offer strong protection against coronavirus in late-stage trials - and the UK has 60 million doses of the jab on order.

The jab has 89.3 per cent efficiacy, including protection against the more transmissible "Kent" strain of the virus and the South African variant.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency will now assess whether the vaccine meets robust standards of safety, effectiveness and quality before it can be approved for use later this year.

Read more: EU told to consider legal action amid bitter row over AstraZeneca vaccine supply

Last August, Novavax announced plans to manufacture the bulk of the vaccine using FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies’s facilities in Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees.

Following the news, Boris Johnson tweeted: "Good news that the Novavax vaccine has proved effective in UK trials. Thank you to all the volunteers who made these results possible.

"Our medicines regulator will now assess the vaccine, which will be made in Teesside. If approved, we have 60m doses on order."

More than 15,000 people in the UK took part in the clinical trial, which was supported by the UK National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

Some 27% of those in the UK were over the age of 65.

The study assessed how effective the vaccine was when transmission of Covid-19 was high in the UK, and with the variant strain first identified in Kent circulating widely.

The UK arm analysis, based on the first 62 cases of Covid-19 identified in the trial, reported 56 cases in people given a placebo (dummy) vaccine while six cases were in those given the Novavax jab.

This part of the trial showed the jab was 89% effective against Covid-19.

More than half of cases related to the UK strain of the virus, with the vaccine offering 86% protection against this particular strain.

Against the original strain that has circulated since the start of the pandemic, the vaccine was 96% effective.

Overall, data from more than 20,000 people, including a trial in South Africa, has now been reported in full.

In the South African arm of the trial, where most cases of Covid-19 were the South African strain, the jab was 60% effective in preventing mild, moderate and severe coronavirus among those without HIV.

Including the HIV positive participants, whose immune systems are compromised, overall the protection was just over 49%.

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi, who took part in the trial, said: “Having taken part in Novavax’s vaccine trial myself, I am particularly thrilled to see such positive results. I want to thank the thousands of trial volunteers, without whom these results would not have been possible.

“It will now be for the regulator to do its crucial work in assessing the efficacy and safety of this vaccine, but if approved it will be a further boost to our vaccination programme.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This is positive news and, if approved by the medicines regulator, the Novavax vaccine will be a significant boost to our vaccination programme and another weapon in our arsenal to beat this awful virus.

“I’m proud the UK is at the forefront of another medical breakthrough and I want to thank the brilliant scientists and researchers, as well as the tens of thousands of selfless volunteers who took park in clinical trials.

“The NHS stands ready to roll this vaccine out as quickly as possible to those most at risk if it is authorised.”

Novavax president and chief executive Stanley Erck said: "NVX-CoV2373 is the first vaccine to demonstrate not only high clinical efficacy against Covid-19 but also significant clinical efficacy against both the rapidly emerging UK and South Africa variants."

The trial was carried out in conjunction with the UK Government's Vaccine Taskforce, with its chairman Clive Dix saying in a statement: "These are spectacular results, and we are very pleased to have helped Novavax with the development of this vaccine.

"The efficacy shown against the emerging variants is also extremely encouraging. This is an incredible achievement that will ensure we can protect individuals in the UK and the rest of the world from this virus."

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “The results from the UK trial of Novavax’s vaccine look extremely promising, and I welcome the news that the company is planning to submit its data to the regulators.

“The UK moved quickly to procure 60 million doses from Novavax and I’m pleased to confirm the bulk of the vaccine will be manufactured on Teesside and delivered during this year, if approved for use.

“From the scientists and researchers to the thousands of UK trial volunteers, I am enormously grateful to everyone who is playing their part in this truly national effort to defeat this virus once and for all.”