HealthFebruary 02, 2021

New COVID-19 vaccine prospects are 'glass more than half full,' says expert

With much of North American healthcare firmly focused on overcoming issues of supply and demand for the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines, the prospect of new vaccines proving their efficacy and becoming approved for emergency use authorization (EUA) could be viewed as a game changer.

On the January 29 broadcast of "Morning Edition," NPR science correspondent Joe Palco asked John Grabenstein, RPh, PhD, editor of Immunization Action Coalition, to weigh in on a new vaccine from US biotech firm Novavax, which has shown an efficacy rate of 89.3%. Of these results, Grabenstein, who helped develop the Lexicomp Coronavirus 2019 Vaccine Tracker, said simply, "It's great."

He noted to NPR that Novavax's product is the first protein subunit vaccine of the four vaccines to have reported phase 3 efficacy data. That means it uses a small component of the virus to stimulate immune response, rather than the entire pathogen. Subunit vaccines are better understood and have a longer track record of success than the mRNA vaccine technology that both Moderna and Pfizer have employed.

The Novavax vaccine has shown resilience to the UK variant of COVID-19, but it has not shown itself to be nearly as effective against the highly contagious South African variant. Even with efficacy rates for the South African strain in the 60% range, Grabenstein said study results were "still glass more than half full."

Johnson & Johnson is also close to completing efficacy studies of its vaccine, and those results are expected soon.

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