Novavax seeks approval of Covid jab amid UK-EU vaccine row - this is when it could be ready

As the Covid vaccine rollout continues across the UK, attention turns to the next wave of jabs that could be deployed to help vaccinate against the deadly coronavirus.

There is expected to be a slowing down in the vaccination programme in April due to supply shortages, amid an ongoing tussle with the EU over deliveries of the AstraZeneca jab.

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The Covid vaccines developed by Astrazeneca / Oxford and Pfizer / BioNtech are currently being used as part of the UK’s rollout, with a third - Moderna - also approved for use.

A fourth - the Novavax vaccine - is also in the pipeline, but when will it be available?

When will the Novavax Covid vaccine be available?

The Covid vaccine being developed by Novavax is currently being assessed by the UK regulator, Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The MHRA will look at all the data around the Novavax vaccine and decide if it is safe to be used in the UK, as it has done previously with the Pfizer, Oxford and Moderna jabs.

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This process can be lengthy with government officials reluctant to put dates on when vaccines will be approved due to the complex nature of assessments conducted by the MHRA.

If approved, the Novavax vaccine is expected to be available among the second wave of jabs to provide a “significant boost” to the rollout in the second half of 2021.

How effective is the Novavax vaccine?

Results from large scale trials showed that the Novavax vaccine has been shown to be highly effective against preventing serious illness or hospitalisations from Covid infection.

The UK study, which had 15,000 participants aged between 18 to 84 years, found that the Novavax vaccine was 96.4% effective against the original strain of coronavirus.

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Whatsmore, the Novavax vaccine was also proven to be 86.3% effective against the Kent variant which has become the dominant strain of the virus in the UK over the winter.

The Novavax vaccine is also shown to have a lower effectiveness, between 48.6% and 55.4%, against the South African strain of Covid - highlighting the need for boosters.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This is positive news and, if approved by the medicines regulator, the Novavax vaccine will be a significant boost to our vaccination programme and another weapon in our arsenal to beat this awful virus.”

How does Novavax compare to AstraZeneca?

The efficacy of the Novavax jab trumps the 95% effectiveness of the Pfizer (95%) and the AstraZeneca (79%) vaccines.

How many doses of the Novavax vaccine has the UK ordered?

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The UK government’s Covid vaccine taskforce has acquired 367 million doses from seven different suppliers overall, including 60 million Novavax jabs.

The AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine makes up the largest proportion of that total, with 100 million doses ordered, followed by Valneva (60m), Novavax (60m), Sanofi (60m), Pfizer (40m), Janssen (30m) and Moderna (17m).

The 60 million doses of the Novavax vaccine ordered is enough to vaccinate up to 30 million people, with two doses required to gain optimum immunity from the virus.

Where is the Novavax vaccine made?

The US-based firm has set up eight manufacturing and distribution centres across the world to maintain a supply of the vaccine, with one being built in the North East of England.

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A manufacturing plant in Stockton-on-Tees, in Durham, is expected to be up and running by April 2021 to help produce initial vaccine supplies and any boosters required to tackle variants.

The Novavax vaccine combines an engineered protein from the virus that causes Covid with a plant based ingredient to generate an immune response, different from Pfizer and Oxford jabs.

How will the Novavax vaccine help the UK hit its rollout target?

The UK government aims to have offered a first dose of an approved Covid vaccine to the top nine groups - over 50s and clinically vulnerable - of its priority list by 15 April.

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Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said he was “reasonably confident” the Government will still meet its vaccination target.

Asked if supply constraints could set back a pledge by ministers for all adults to be offered a vaccine by the end of July, he told Channel 4 News: “I don’t think so.

“I think the Government have made the commitment of July, they have ordered a number of different vaccines in addition to the Pfizer and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

“We have the Novavax vaccine which has been ordered, we have the Moderna vaccine that’s been ordered, we have the Janssen vaccine that’s been ordered.

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“There are a number of different vaccines, so I would be reasonably confident that, given the commitment from the Government to offer every adult an immunisation by the end of July, will come to fruition.”