News Coronavirus Novavax seeks OK in needy countries first

Novavax seeks OK in needy countries first

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Novavax says its vaccine is about 90 per cent effective against symptomatic COVID-19. Photo: Getty
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Vaccine maker Novavax has asked regulators in India, Indonesia and the Philippines to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine – offering its shot to some low-income countries before rich ones with ample supplies.

US-based Novavax partnered with the Serum Institute of India to apply in the three countries, and plans later in August to also seek the World Health Organisation review needed to be part of the COVAX global vaccine program.

On Thursday (US time), Novavax chief executive Stanley Erck called the submissions an “important step toward access to millions of doses of a safe and effective vaccine for countries with an urgent need to control the pandemic”.

The company announced it also plans to submit applications in Britain soon, followed by Europe, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, but not in the US until later in 2021.

Australia has a contract for 51 million Novavax doses, but the vaccine is yet to be approved for use here. Delays in the manufacturing process have further hindered supply.

The Novavax two-dose shot is made with lab-grown copies of the spike protein that coats the coronavirus.

That is very different from other widely used vaccines that deliver genetic instructions for the body to make its own spike protein.

The Novavax shots are easier to store and transport than some other options, and have long been expected to play an important role in increasing supplies in poor countries desperate for more vaccine.

In June, Novavax announced the vaccine had proved about 90 per cent effective against symptomatic COVID-19 in a study of nearly 30,000 people in the US and Mexico.

It also worked against variants circulating in those countries at the time. Side effects were mostly mild.

As for the highly contagious delta variant that now is circulating in much of the world, Novavax also announced on Thursday that giving a booster six months after a second shot revved up virus-fighting antibodies that could tackle that mutant.