The Health Ministry disclosed on Friday, Israel signed an agreement with US-based Novavax for purchasing 5 million doses of their vaccine. The ministry added that the vaccine still required regulatory approval and would arrive in Israel in the coming months. It also said that the agreement also had the option of acquiring five million additional doses. The vaccines for COVID-19 train the body for recognizing the spike protein of the coronavirus in order to address it, but the vaccine by Novavax does not work in the same way as most of the widely used vaccines. This new vaccine is a protein one and has been made with older technology.
The technology is one that has been used for production of other kinds of vaccine. Novavax, based in Maryland, United States, has taken advantage of genetic engineering for growing harmless copies of the spike protein of the coronavirus in insect cells. The protein is extracted and purified by scientists and is then mixed in a chemical for boosting the immune system. The Israeli Health Ministry said that this vaccine would be introduced as an alternative who do not want to be, or cannot be vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine.
The Novavax vaccine also has two doses that need to be administered with a gap of three weeks between them. According to Novavax, it is currently testing how its vaccine will hold up against the rapidly spreading Omicron variant. Similar to the other vaccine manufacturers, the company has also begun to formulate an updated version for better matching the said variant, in case it is ever required. The World Health Organization (WHO) had given emergency approval for the Novavax vaccine back in December. This resulted in the vaccine being included in the UN-backed program for getting vaccines to poorer countries across the world.
The drug regulator for the EU, the European Medicines Agency, had said that the human medicines committee found the vaccine’s data to be robust and it was in accordance with the EU’s criteria for safety, efficacy and quality. Novavax had reported last summer that a study comprising of 30,000 people from the United States and Mexico had found the vaccine to be 90% effective and safe against symptomatic infection against the virus’s earlier variants. The findings had been similar to a trial conducted in Britain involving 15,000 people. According to a follow-up study, if a booster shot was administered six months after the previous one, it could enhance virus-fighting antibodies for even tackling the contagious Delta variant, which had been the biggest threat back then.
The Novavax vaccine had been expected to increase the global vaccine supplies, as the shots only have to be refrigerated. However, large-scale manufacturing problems resulted in a delay in the vaccine. Regardless, the vaccine has received emergency approval in more than a few countries around the world. The US-based company has also filed an application with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but this is still pending and has not yet received approval.