Berlin. Corona vaccinations with the preparation from the US manufacturer Novavax are expected to start in Germany at the end of February. The first delivery of 1.75 million doses should be available from February 21, as Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach said on Friday with reference to company information in Berlin. Exact dates for another 3.25 million doses that have been purchased have not yet been determined. He hopes for delivery in February. Lauterbach explained that the preparation, which is “quasi an inactivated vaccine”, should be particularly available to those who prefer this type of vaccination. He himself could not assess the value of the Omicron variant well. But he assumes that the vaccine should work well. Vaccinations with it would be recommended. Video Vaccine researchers: Fourth corona vaccination may only be for risk groups The booster vaccinations are in full swing in Germany. Will vaccinations be necessary every three months soon? © dpa
So vaccine is based on different technology
The Novavax agent was recently approved as the fifth corona vaccine in the EU. Two doses are injected about three weeks apart. It is a protein vaccine – so it is based on a different technology than the previously available corona preparations. The effectiveness for protection against symptomatic infections was given by the EU medicines authority EMA at around 90 percent. Experts pointed out that not as much is known about the new vaccine as about the other preparations that have been in widespread use for some time.
High effectiveness – but ahead of “Delta” and “Omicron”
In June, Novavax said that in a study with almost 30,000 participants in the United States and Mexico, the vaccine was around 90 percent effective against symptomatic Covid 19 diseases. This data is therefore based on a very high level of protection. The analysis was also published as a preprint in mid-October. A study with 15,000 subjects in Great Britain that was published in the “New England Journal of Medicine” came to a similar conclusion. However, both studies were done before the delta variant became dominant – and before omicron was discovered. Therefore, it is not yet clear how effective Novavax is now. The company itself has already announced that similarly high antibody levels as in the original virus can only be expected with Delta with a booster. To what extent the Novavax agent works against omicron is still unclear. The company announced in early December that it wanted to test its vaccine against the variant. “Laboratory data are expected in the coming weeks,” the statement said. In addition, the manufacturer says it has started developing an omicron-specific spike protein for the vaccine. According to current plans, the first production in a commercial plant is “expected in January 2022.” However, vaccine experts point out that Novavax’s technology could stimulate vaccination protection in only a few parts of the immune system. mRNA vaccines managed to initiate the production of important killer T cells and corresponding memory cells. “With the protein-based vaccines, on the other hand, the cytotoxic T cells are hardly stimulated and instead the antibody response is mainly stimulated,” Christian Münz, Professor of Viral Immunobiology at the University of Zurich, recently explained to the RND. “That makes it easier for the virus to become resistant to these vaccines because the immune response isn’t as broad-based.”
The vaccine is given in two doses, about three weeks apart, by injection into the upper arm. According to study data, the drug is well tolerated and safe. Mild side effects such as pressure pain at the injection site, headaches or fatigue can be expected. Vaccination reactions occurred more frequently among the study participants after the second than after the first dose.
In contrast to the previously approved vaccines, the Novavax vaccine is neither an mRNA vaccine – like the preparations from Biontech and Moderna – nor a vector vaccine like those from Astrazeneca and Johnson & Johnson. The manufacturer relies on an established vaccination principle – the protein-based method, which has been known for decades from vaccine research and is also used against other viral infections. The vaccine is made from copies of the spike proteins on the surface of the virus. The spikes can be assembled into nanoparticles that mimic the molecular structure of the coronavirus. However, Novavax does not work quite as traditionally as previous protein vaccines: The manufacturer also needs certain active enhancers, so-called adjuvants, which strengthen the immune response. With their mRNA vaccines, Biontech/Pfizer and Moderna, on the other hand, administer a blueprint with genetic information that causes the body to produce the spike protein itself for a short time.
Is only Novavax an inactivated vaccine?
Killed vaccines, also known as inactivated vaccines, contain only dead viruses that can no longer multiply. They can also contain components of the pathogens – “These are recognized by the body as foreign and stimulate the body’s own defense system to form antibodies without the respective disease breaking out,” explains the Federal Center for Health Education. According to this definition, the Novavax agent is an inactivated vaccine. Incidentally, this also applies to the mRNA and vector vaccines – i.e. all agents that have been approved in the EU to date. “The Covid-19 vaccines do not contain any reproducible viruses. In this respect, they can be equated with dead vaccines,” writes the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) on its website. However, the term “dead vaccine” is not used uniformly. If the definition is that the real virus or at least parts of it must be contained in the vaccine, Novavax would not be an inactivated vaccine in the narrower sense. Because the decisive component that is supposed to trigger the immune response was not taken from a real virus, but is a genetically engineered virus protein. What many meant by dead vaccines were “vaccines that are based on principles that are also used for other vaccinations,” said Carsten Watzl, Secretary General of the German Society for Immunology.
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