Novavax COVID-19 vaccine could benefit US even as vaccinations slow

North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C.(WNCN) – A fourth COVID-19 vaccine potentially on its way was developed and tested in the Triangle. It’s a North Carolina success story but the current vaccines are a success story for the country.

“Just look at the numbers. We’ve gone from 400,000 people dying a day to 400 people dying a day,” said Dr. David Wohl, a professor of infectious diseases at the UNC School of Medicine.

Novavax reported their vaccine had an overall 90-percent efficacy. They report their clinical trial resulted in:

  • 93% efficacy against predominantly circulating Variants of Concern and Variants of Interest
  • 91% efficacy in high-risk populations
  • 100% efficacy against variants “not considered Variants of Concern/Interest”

While several variants were found during the clinical trials, the new delta variant was not present. That means it’s still unclear how much this vaccine would be protective against it.

“The virus is mutating in places where it’s spreading wildly from person to person. That where these mutations evolve,” said Wohl.

But fewer people are opting for the three we already have. Vaccinations peaked the first week of April with just over 685,000 doses administered. That’s since dropped off.

Even if Americans don’t take advantage of the vaccine, a Novavax approval could serve as a safety net.

“Having a robust vaccine supply chain so that if systems go down for one vaccine, there are others to mitigate that- now and in the future,” said Dr. Pia Macdonald, an epidemiologist at RTI International.

Macdonald said it’s not just about the U.S. A fourth vaccine means there’s more to share.

“We in the United States, we travel. And people travel to the United States and until we have a handle on this disease globally, even in the United States, we’re not safe,” said Macdonald.

Courtesy: Novavax

It’s something Wohl learned while studying other diseases.

“I work in Africa. People are really excited about vaccines like this in that part of the world,” he said.

He agrees vaccines for the world means security for us.

Future of the vaccines

Novavax still needs to request Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA. Meanwhile, Pfizer and Moderna are now seeking full approval from the FDA.

While all of the vaccines that are currently authorized for use by the FDA have undergone rigorous clinical trials, no vaccine is fully approved yet.

EUA‘s were used to get the vaccines to the public more quickly. FDA approval is a long process. The US Department of Health and Human Services determined last year that there was a significant reason to allow pharmaceutical companies to seek EUA rather than full approval to help mitigate the impacts of the pandemic.

During a EUA, testing, and manufacturing happen at the same time. Under the full approval process, manufacturing has to wait until after approval.

Neither process comprises safety or efficacy. Both processes require three-phase clinical trials. Click here for a visual explanation.

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