Novavax Covid vaccine could win Dutch approval Friday as mRNA alternative
Adults who have not yet been vaccinated against Covid-19 and who object to using vaccines based on newer mRNA techniques should be given the opportunity to opt for the new vaccine from Novavax, the Dutch Health Council recommended. The mRNA vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are most frequently used in the Netherlands, and even though mRNA has been developed in human trials over the past decade, some continue to be concerned about rumors claiming the technology affects DNA or causes fertility issues.
The advisory note sent from the Council to Health Minister Hugo de Jonge gave a positive recommendation to use the Novavax vaccine, Nuvaxovid, in the Netherlands. De Jonge said he will study the Health Council’s advice and will send a decision about the Nuvaxovid to the Tweede Kamer on Friday. The Netherlands already has a deal to acquire 840,000 doses of the Novavax vaccine
The European Commission allowed the vaccine to enter the European market on Monday, after a positive decision by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). It was determined to be sufficiently safe and effective according to the medical experts. One drawback is that it is not yet known to what extent this vaccine is effective against the Omicron variant of the virus, which is well on its way to becoming dominant in the Netherlands.
Novavax said on Wednesday that preliminary research showed its two-dose vaccine is effective against the Omicron variant. Those who received the vaccine earlier in the pandemic also showed a positive immune response against Omicron after receiving a booster shot. However, the Health Council said it expects the vaccine will be less effective against the new variant. Until more is definitively known about this, the Council recommended that the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines be offered first to unvaccinated people.
Two Nuvaxovid doses are required in shots separated by at least three weeks. Side effects are usually mild and the vaccine is 60 to 90 percent effective at preventing serious illness caused by various earlier variants of the coronavirus which were circulating when the drug was developed.
Nuvaxovid is the fifth corona vaccine that can be used in Europe. It is different from the other four already approved vaccines. Aside from the mRNA vaccines, Europe permits the sale of vector vaccines from Janssen and AstraZeneca. Instead, the Novavax vaccine is protein based, which is masked to look like the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. This triggers an immune system response.
The mRNA vaccines use a piece of genetic code from the coronavirus to activate the immune system. The vaccines from AstraZeneca and Janssen use a neutralized cold virus, which also contains a piece of genetic code to get the immune system working. Both can cause a combination of thrombosis and platelet deficiency in very rare cases.
Some experts think that this vaccine could help convince some people who have not yet been vaccinated. Ton de Boer, the chairman of the Medicines Evaluation Board (MEB), noted earlier this week that some doubters "have concerns with new technology.”
Valneva is also vying for EMA approval with another vaccine that is developed in a more traditional way with an inactive form of the coronavirus. De Jonge said the Netherlands has commitments to purchase 10,000 doses of that vaccine, “and it is very easy to order more of them.” He has also asked the RIVM to determine how many Dutch people are waiting for this “classic” vaccine.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times.