Vaccine maker Novavax said Monday its COVID-19 shot was highly effective against the disease and also protected against variants in a large study in the U.S. and Mexico, potentially offering the world yet another weapon against the virus at a time when developing countries are desperate for doses.
The two-shot vaccine was about 90 per cent effective overall, and preliminary data showed it was safe, the American biotechnology company said. That would put the vaccine about on par with Pfizer’s and Moderna’s.
While demand for COVID-19 shots in the U.S. has dropped off dramatically and the country has more than enough doses to go around, the need for more vaccines around the world remains critical. The Novavax vaccine, which is easy to store and transport, is expected to play an important role in boosting vaccine supplies in the developing world.
That help is still months away, however. The company says it plans to seek authorization for the shots in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere by the end of September and will be able to produce up to 100 million doses a month by then.
“Many of our first doses will go to … low- and middle-income countries, and that was the goal, to begin with,” Novavax Chief Executive Stanley Erck said.
Novavax’s study involved nearly 30,000 people ages 18 and up. Two-thirds received two doses of the vaccine, three weeks apart, and the rest got dummy shots.
There were 77 cases of COVID-19 — 14 in the group that got the vaccine, the rest in volunteers who received the dummy shots. None in the vaccine group had moderate or severe disease, compared with 14 in the placebo group.
The vaccine was similarly effective against several variants, including the one first detected in Britain that is dominant in the U.S., and in high-risk populations, including the elderly and people with other health problems.
Side effects were mostly mild — tenderness and pain at the injection site. There were no reports of unusual blood clots or heart problems.
Novavax reported the results in a news release and plans to publish them in a medical journal, where they will be vetted by independent experts. The Gaithersburg, Maryland-based company previously released findings from smaller studies in Britain and South Africa.