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COVID-19 Vaccine Development: Phase 1 Trials by Novavax are Promising

Eight months after the emergence of coronavirus, which can be described as the worst global health crisis in almost a century, the race is on for the development of the covid19 vaccine. After Moderna and Pfizer, a third US company Novavax has released results of its Phase 1 trials of its coronavirus vaccine showing that it is safe and provokes an immune response.

Novavax a vaccine development company headquartered in Maryland, released its Phase 1 data on Tuesday involving 131 volunteers who after getting two doses of the vaccine developed neutralizing antibodies at levels that were four times higher on average than the antibodies developed by people who have recovered from the virus. These neutralizing antibodies are used to fight off the virus causing covid19.

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The company has never released a product in the market and was initially left out of the US government’s list for Operation Warp speed, but later it was included in the list with a funding of 1.6 billion dollars which was the project’s largest fund at that time. The company wasted no time in making use of the funds in developing its covid19 vaccine which is in its late-stage development.

The participants of the study were given one or two doses of the vaccine at various stages. Some of them were also given an adjuvant, a component used to boost the immune system. T-cells, a type of immune cell, also responded to the vaccine according to the report. The participants who received two doses with adjuvant showed the best results. The report has not been reviewed by any scientist outside of Novavax but has been submitted to a journal where it will be published.

Twenty-five of the 131 volunteers were given placebo injections, which look like regular treatment or medicine but has no therapeutic value, three of them showed side effects. The other 106 volunteers were vaccinated and five of them developed severe side effects including nausea, joint pain, and muscle pain and one of the participants developed a mild fever. The side effects didn’t last for more than two days.

Novavax also released the results of its study on animals on Tuesday, in which 12 monkeys were given two doses of the covid19 vaccine and then were exposed to the virus. 11 monkeys showed no signs of infection in their lungs or noses. One monkey who was given a low dose of the vaccine briefly showed signs of infection on its lungs, but all the signs were gone after two days.

Moderna and Pfizer, the two other US companies have also released encouraging results of their Phase 1 trials and have started their phase 3 trials involving 30,000 volunteers last week. The federal government has given funding as part of its Operation Warp Speed Program to Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, Novavax, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca to develop covid19 vaccines. Also, two more unnamed companies will receive funding from the government according to Moncef Slaoui.

Moncef Slaoui, the head of the government’s program, believes that the vaccine will be available by the end of December or January with doses which will be enough for high-risk Americans including those who are elderly or have underlying conditions such as heart diseases or diabetes. He said that there will be enough vaccines for all the Americans by the end of 2021.