By Daniel R. Lucey MD, MPH, FIDSA
Today the U.S.-based Novavax announced the results in a press release that its COVID-19 vaccine had 49.4% vaccine efficacy (95% Confidence Interval: 6.1 – 72.8) in its overall trial population in a Phase 2b trial in South Africa. Novavax stated that “approximately 90% of COVID-19 cases attributed to South Africa escape variant” (501Y.V2) . The immediate implication for vaccine development was also addressed (my boldtype added):
“Novavax initiated development of new constructs against the emerging strains in early January and expects to select ideal candidates for a booster and/or combination bivalent vaccine for the new strains in the coming days. The company plans to initiate clinical testing of these new vaccines in the second quarter of this year.”
The need to develop bivalent vaccines was advocated here Jan. 26, including the variant 501Y.V2 first found in South Africa.
In the same press release Novavax reported results from its United Kingdom trials of a vaccine efficacy of 89.3% (CI: 75.2095.4). Notably, Novavax also stated that: “Based on PCR performed on strains from 56 of the 62 cases, efficacy by strain was calculated to be 95.6% against the original COVID-19 strain and 85.6% against the UK variant strain [post hoc].”
In the meantime, the first two persons in the U.S. infected with the variant 501Y.V2 found initially in South Africa, were reported today.
Daniel Lucey, M.D. MPH, FIDSA, FACP, is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine, Infectious Disease adjunct Professor at Georgetown Medical Center, senior scholar at Georgetown Law, Anthropology Research Associate at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and a member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America Global Health Committee. He served as a volunteer to outbreaks overseas including hands-on Ebola patient care in Sierra Leone and Liberia (Doctors without Borders) 2014, MERS 2013, SARS 2003, as well as HIV, H5N1, Zika, yellow Fever, and pneumonic plague 2017 (with WHO/USAID/CDC). Since Jan. 6, 2020 he has contributed over 75 posts to Science Speaks on COVID-19 and traveled to China in February 2020. He initially proposed, then fundraised and helped design the content for 2018-2022 Smithsonian Exhibition on Epidemics due to zoonotic viruses. From 1982-1988 he trained at University of California San Francisco and Harvard and was an attending physician at the NIH (NIAID) in the 1990s while in the US Public Health Service.