Novavax vaccine clears key step on path to FDA authorization

Novavax’s two-dose Covid-19 vaccine for adults ages 18 and older cleared a key step on the trail towards Meals and Drug Administration authorization on Tuesday.

The FDA’s committee of unbiased vaccine consultants voted 21 to 0 with one abstention on the finish of an all-day assembly to suggest authorizing the shot to be used within the U.S. after an all-day public assembly during which it weighed security and effectiveness information. The FDA often follows the committee’s suggestions, although it isn’t obligated to take action. The company might clear Novavax’s vaccine for distribution within the U.S. as quickly as this week.

The Facilities for Illness Management Prevention would nonetheless have to log out on the photographs earlier than pharmacies and different health-care suppliers can begin administering them to individuals.

Novavax’s shot could be the fourth Covid vaccine approved to be used within the U.S. and the primary new one because the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was cleared in February 2021.

Novavax was one of many early members within the U.S. authorities’s race to develop a Covid vaccine in 2020, receiving $1.8 billion in taxpayer funding from Operation Warp Velocity. Nonetheless, the corporate struggled for greater than a 12 months to get manufacturing in place and its medical trial information appeared a lot later than Pfizer and Moderna.

Identified know-how

The Maryland biotech firm’s photographs are primarily based on protein know-how that is been in use for many years in vaccines towards hepatitis B and HPV. The know-how differs from Pfizer and Moderna’s photographs, which had been the primary ones utilizing messenger RNA know-how to obtain FDA approval.

Dr. Peter Marks, who leads the FDA workplace accountable for reviewing vaccine security and effectiveness, mentioned Novavax’s vaccine would probably attraction to unimmunized individuals who would favor a shot that isn’t primarily based on the mRNA know-how utilized by Pfizer and Moderna. Although Johnson & Johnson’s shot can be out there, the CDC has restricted its use attributable to a threat of blood clots, primarily in ladies.

On this picture illustration the Meals and Drug Administration (FDA) and Novavax logos are seen behind a medical syringe and vials.

Pavlo Gonchar | LightRocket | Getty Photographs

About 76% of adults ages 18 and older have already acquired two doses within the U.S., primarily with Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines, in response to information from the CDC. Nonetheless, about 27 million adults within the U.S. haven’t acquired their first dose but, in response to Heather Scobie, an official on the CDC’s Covid emergency response group. Novavax executives imagine their vaccine will attraction to some individuals on this group who should not towards vaccination, however need an possibility that makes use of know-how with an extended monitor document than mRNA.

Novavax’s vaccine was 90% efficient at stopping sickness from Covid throughout the board and 100% efficient at stopping extreme sickness, in response to the corporate’s medical trial outcomes from the U.S. and Mexico. Nonetheless, the trial was carried out from December 2020 by way of September of 2021, months earlier than the extremely contagious omicron variant and its numerous sublineages turned dominant within the U.S.


In briefing paperwork printed forward of Tuesday’s assembly, FDA officers mentioned there isn’t any information out there on the effectiveness of the Novavax vaccine towards omicron, although the photographs would probably nonetheless defend towards extreme sickness from the variant. Novavax, like each Covid vaccine, was designed to focus on the unique pressure of the virus that first emerged in Wuhan, China, in 2019. Nonetheless, the virus has mutated dramatically over the previous two years. The effectiveness of all of the vaccines towards gentle sickness from Covid has declined considerably because the virus has advanced.

“The examine was carried out fairly some time in the past and mentioned the circumstances that accrued weren’t through the time that omicron was circulating,” Dr. Lucia Lee, an official with the FDA’s division of vaccine analysis, mentioned throughout her presentation to the committee.

Committee member Dr. Eric Rubin, an infectious illness knowledgeable at Harvard, mentioned he was disillusioned the corporate did not current information on Novavax’s effectiveness towards omicron. Nonetheless, Rubin mentioned the information the corporate did submit meets the identical customary used to authorize Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines in December 2020.

Novavax’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Filip Dubovsky advised the panel that information from the corporate’s trials confirmed that two doses induced an immune response towards omicron, although it was decrease than towards the Wuhan pressure. A 3rd dose boosted the immune response towards omicron to ranges similar to the primary two doses which had 90% effectiveness towards sickness, Dubovsky mentioned. Novavax plans to ask the FDA to authorize a 3rd dose if the company clears the first sequence to be used within the U.S., he mentioned.

“It is factual that we do not have efficacy information towards omicron, what we do have is a know-how that we predict generates a broad immune response, demonstrated towards a broad array of variants,” Dubosvky mentioned. 

Unwanted effects

The commonest unwanted side effects of Novavax’s photographs had been injection web site ache, fatigue, headache and muscle ache, in response to FDA briefing paperwork. Nonetheless, FDA officers additionally raised a purple flag that Novavax’s vaccine is perhaps related to a threat of coronary heart irritation as is the case with Pfizer and Moderna’s photographs.

In a security database of 40,000 Novavax vaccine recipients, 4 younger males who ranged in age from 16 to twenty-eight reported myocarditis or pericarditis inside 20 days of receiving a shot, although one among them had a viral sickness that might have precipitated the signs. Myocarditis is an irritation of the center muscle and pericarditis is irritation of the outer lining of the center.

Lee mentioned these circumstances had been regarding as a result of the sufferers reported their signs inside days of receiving a Novavax shot, and there may be already a longtime hyperlink between mRNA vaccination and coronary heart irritation amongst youthful males. Within the case of the mRNA photographs, the CDC has discovered that the danger of myocarditis is increased from Covid an infection than vaccination.


Novavax’s chief security officer Dr. Denny Kim mentioned the charges of myocarditis had been primarily the identical between individuals who did and didn’t obtain the vaccine within the medical examine, although it was barely increased amongst individuals who acquired the photographs.

“We imagine that the totality of the medical proof right here is just not sufficient to ascertain an total causal relationship with the vaccine,” Kim advised the committee. He mentioned Novavax is monitoring for circumstances of coronary heart irritation within the accumulating information from its medical trials and actual world use of the photographs the place they’re already approved.

Panel member Dr. Arthur Reingold, an epidemiologist at UC Berkeley, mentioned he was skeptical that enormous numbers of vaccine-hesitant individuals would get Novavax’s shot, given there’s proof the corporate’s vaccine is perhaps related to a threat of coronary heart irritation at comparable ranges to the Pfizer and Moderna photographs. 

Dr. Cody Meissner, a pediatrician at Tufts College who additionally sits on the committee, mentioned there’s clearly a hyperlink between Covid vaccines and myocarditis, although there’s not sufficient information to say whether or not one firm’s shot carries the next threat.

Novavax’s vaccine know-how differs in a lot of methods from Pfizer and Moderna’s photographs. The latter depend on messenger RNA to show human cells into factories that produce copies of Covid’s spike protein to induce an immune response that fights the virus. The spike protein is the a part of the virus that latches on to and invades human cells.

Novavax produces copies of the virus’ spike protein outdoors the human physique. The genetic code for the spike is put right into a baculovirus that infects moth cells, which produce copies of the spike which might be then purified and extracted. The spike copy, which might’t replicate or trigger Covid, is injected into individuals inducing an immune response towards the virus.

The vaccine additionally makes use of one other ingredient referred to as an adjuvant, which is an extract purified from the bark of a tree in South America, to induce a broader immune response towards the virus. The photographs include 5 micrograms of the spike copy and 50 micrograms of the adjuvant.

Novavax’s vaccine can be saved at fridge temperatures, whereas Pfizer and Moderna’s photographs require deep subzero chilly temperatures.

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