It is a new weapon that completes the vaccine arsenal in the fight against Covid-19. After the green light from the European regulator at the end of December, the High Authority for Health (HAS), responsible for guiding the government in its vaccine policy, authorized this Friday a new serum in France: the vaccine from the American laboratory Novavax.
It is the fifth vaccine approved in France, after those of Pfizer / BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen. But what are its peculiarities? We take stock.
Who is making this new vaccine?
This new vaccine, precisely called Nuvaxovid, was created by the American laboratory Novavax. The company, founded in 1987 and listed on the Nasdaq, is based in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
A vaccine to convince the antivaccines?
Novavax serum is a so-called “subunit” vaccine: it contains a component of the virus (and not the whole virus like the most classic vaccines), introduced into the body to trigger an immune response. It is on this technique that the vaccines against pertussis, meningococcal meningitis and hepatitis B are based. This technology, used for a long time, is not the same as that of the vaccines of Pfizer and Moderna, which are currently almost exclusively used in France against Covid. These vaccines are based on a novel technology, messenger RNA.
In its opinion, the HAS considers that Novavax can thus be “a useful alternative” for people reluctant to be injected with messenger RNA vaccines, or “those who have experienced a serious adverse event after a first injection”. An observation shared by the infectious disease specialist Eric Caumes who, on Europe 1 this Friday morning, considered it possible that the arrival of this new vaccine removes the apprehensions of some unvaccinated because it “uses a technique that we know much better”.
While the Omicron variant continues to spread, accentuating contamination (more than 305,000 positive cases for Covid on Thursday), 4.9 million people aged 12 and over have not received the slightest dose of vaccine.
The HAS wants to restore the image of the Janssen vaccine
In its opinion on Friday, the High Authority of Health also published new recommendations on the Janssen vaccine, which is hardly used any more. She believes that, like that of Novavax, the laboratory serum represents “an additional option” for people who “do not wish or cannot receive” mRNA vaccines.
The Janssen vaccine employs the “viral vector” technique (another virus, from the adenovirus family, is used as a platform). In recent months, it had been confined to those over 55 because of an increased risk of side effects in the youngest. Initially, it was supposed to be given as a single dose, but studies have shown that this is not enough.
How is it administered?
Like most Covid vaccines, Novavax serum is given in two doses into the muscle of the upper arm and three weeks apart.
As for the side effects, they seem to be of the same ilk as for other vaccines. The HAS notes that they are “generally of mild to moderate severity and of short duration: tenderness (69%) and pain (58%) at the injection site, fatigue (47%), headaches (43%) and discomfort (37%) ”. The frequency of side effects is also “higher in adults under 65”.
Still according to the High Authority for Health, the efficacy of the Novavax vaccine is around 90% “against symptomatic forms”, and approaching 100% “against severe forms”. The long-term efficacy and against the Delta and Omicron variants, however, remains “to be confirmed”, specifies the HAS, because these data are the result of tests carried out before the arrival of the two strains of the coronavirus.
When will it be available?
The first deliveries of Novavax should take place in early February, the health ministry said this week. France is to receive 3.2 million doses of Novavax in the first quarter, including one million during the first deliveries.