Jan. 29 (UPI) — Maryland biotech company Novavax said its COVID-19 vaccine candidate has proven effective in late-stage trials though it shows a less robust response to the South African variant of the virus.
The company announced in a press release Thursday that its protein-based NVX-CoV2373 vaccine demonstrated a 89.3% efficacy rate in its Phase 3 clinical trial conducted in Britain involving more than 15,000 participants between the ages of 18 to 84.
“These are spectacular results, and we are very pleased to have helped Novavax with the development of this vaccine,” Clive Dix, chair of Britain’s vaccine taskforce, said. “This is an incredible achievement that will ensure we can protect individuals in the U.K. and the rest of the world from this virus.”
However, while the vaccine proved effective at protecting against the virus, a small trial of 4,400 volunteers showed it was only 49% effective at protecting against its fast-spreading South African variant. The company said its efficacy though goes up to 60% when tested only on HIV-negative subjects.
“The 60% reduced risk against COVID-19 illness in vaccinated individuals in South Africans underscores the value of this vaccine to prevent illness from the highly worrisome variant currently circulating in South Africa, and which is spreading globally,” said Prof. Shabir Maddi, executive director of the Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit at Wits University and principal investigator in the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine trial in South Africa.
Novavax, which has received $1.6 billion from the United States’ Operation Warp Speed, said it initiated development on “new constructs” to fight emerging strains earlier this month and expects to select candidate vaccines in the coming days with trials to begin in the second quarter of this year.
“This is the first COVID-19 vaccine for which we now have objective evidence that it protects against the variant dominating in South Africa,” Maddi said. “I am encouraged to see that Novavax plans to immediately begin clinical development on a vaccine specifically targeted to the variant, which together with the current vaccine is likely to form the cornerstone of the fight against COVID-19.”
The announcement came hours after the United States confirmed its first cases of the South African variant in South Carolina.
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced its medicine regulator will now assess the vaccine, which is being manufactured in the northern British city of Teesside, for approval.
“If approved, we have 60 [million] doses on order,” he tweeted.
Matt Hancock, Britain’s heath secretary, cheered the announcement as a success of global collaboration.
“Our vaccine strategy is working,” he said.
The Canadian government has also secured 52 million doses of the vaccines with an option for an additional 24 million.