Novavax, J&J Vaccine Candidates Effective Against COVID-19, Variants

January 29, 2021
Grace Halsey

Vaccines from both companies were significantly effective against COVID-19 and show promise against variants from the UK and South Africa.

Vaccines against coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) disease being developed by Johnson and Johnson's Janssen division and by Novavax have both shown significant efficacy against the virus, the former demonstrating 72% efficacy and the latter 89.3%.

Novavax reported results of its phase 3 UK and phase 2b South African trials late on the afternoon of January 28th while Janssen's news was released early on the morning of January 29th.

The single-shot candidate from Johnson & Johnson was shown to be overall 66% effective in preventing moderate and severe disease in a global Phase 3 trial, and 85% effective against severe disease, according to the company’s press announcement. The topline results demonstrated complete vaccine protection against COVID-19-related hospitalization and death.

Efficacy against moderate-to-severe COVID-19 was 72% in the US, 66% in Latin America and 57% in South Africa, 28 days post-vaccination.

The topline safety and efficacy data are based on 43,783 participants accruing 468 symptomatic cases of COVID-19.

The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine candidate NVX-CoV2373 demonstrated overall 89.3% efficacy in the UK-based phase 3 clinical trial where more than half the cases identified were attributable to the now-predominant UK variant of the virus, known as B.1.1.7. By strain, efficacy was calculated to be 95.6% against the original COVID-19 strain and 85.6% against the UK variant.

In the Novavax phase 2b vaccine trial in South Africa, NVX-CoV2373 was 60% effective against COVID-19 in the population without HIV and 49.4% effective when HIV-positive individuals were included.

“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 Professor Shabir Maddi, executive director of the Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit (VIDA) at Wits, and principal investigator in the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine trial in South Africa. “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.”

According to the company, NVX-CoV2373 is stable at 2°C to 8°C (refrigerated) and is shipped in a ready-to-use liquid formulation that permits distribution using existing vaccine supply chain channels.

Johnson & Johnson has said it's on track to produce a billion doses worldwide. The US federal government has contracted to buy 100 million doses of the vaccine, expected to be delivered by June.


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