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Novavax COVID-19 vaccine works, but less so against variants

The announcement comes amid worry about whether a variety of vaccines being rolled out will be strong enough to protect against new variants – and as the world desperately needs new types of shots to boost scarce supplies.

January 29, 2021 / 07:55 AM IST
File image: Clinical trial participants are monitored during Novavax COVID-19 vaccine testing in Melbourne, Australia in May 26, 2020. (Image: Patrick Rocca/Nucleus Network/ABC via AP)

File image: Clinical trial participants are monitored during Novavax COVID-19 vaccine testing in Melbourne, Australia in May 26, 2020. (Image: Patrick Rocca/Nucleus Network/ABC via AP)

Novavax Inc. said on January 28 that its COVID-19 vaccine appears 89 percent effective based on early findings from a British study and that it also seems to work — though not as well — against new mutated versions of the virus circulating in that country and South Africa.

The announcement comes amid worry about whether a variety of vaccines being rolled out around the world will be strong enough to protect against worrisome new variants – and as the world desperately needs new types of shots to boost scarce supplies.

The study of 15,000 people in Britain is still underway. But an interim analysis found 62 participants so far have been diagnosed with COVID-19 – only six of them in the group that got vaccine and the rest who received dummy shots.

The infections occurred at a time when Britain was experiencing a jump in COVID-19 caused by a more contagious variant. A preliminary analysis found over half of the trial participants who became infected had the mutated version. The numbers are very small, but Novavax said they suggest the vaccine is nearly 96% effective against the older coronavirus and nearly 86% effective against the new variant. The findings are based on cases that occurred at least a week after the second dose.