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Novavax becomes fifth Covid vaccine to be approved in France

It is hoped that it will be a ‘useful alternative’ for people who are wary of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which are based on newer technology

The Novavax vaccine

The first vaccinations with the Novavax vaccine could take place in France in early February Pic: Vladimka production / Shutterstock

A fifth Covid vaccine, developed by American biotechnology company Novavax, has been approved for use in France.

The approval was given by the country’s health service quality regulator the Haute Autorité de santé (HAS) yesterday (January 14). 

It comes after the vaccine, which is called Nuvaxovid, was given European Union approval on December 20, 2021. 

The Nuvaxovid vaccine is not based on the same revolutionary technology as the vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, called Messenger RNA (mRNA), but uses a more typical method. 

It works by preparing the body to defend itself against Covid. 

The vaccine contains a version of the spike protein found on the coronavirus and a substance to help strengthen a person’s immune response to the virus. 

When a person is given the vaccine, their immune system will identify the protein as foreign and produce natural defences, which the body will replicate if infected with the actual virus. 

The HAS said that the Novavax vaccine represents a “useful alternative” to the mRNA vaccines, which are by a considerable amount the most used vaccines in France. 

“We maintain our recommendation to prioritise using the mRNA vaccines…but for people who are wary of these types of vaccines and for those who cannot receive them, the Novavax vaccine represents a useful alternative,” the HAS wrote in its approval statement. 

“People who have received a single dose of any vaccine and are unwilling or unable to receive a second dose of the same vaccine can [get a second dose of Novavax],” the authority wrote. 

It cannot yet be used as a booster dose (meaning as a third dose) due to a current lack of data. 

The vaccine is available to anyone aged 18 and over, except for pregnant women. 

The normal cycle is two doses given three weeks apart. 

The vaccine’s efficacy is around 90%, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) stated. However, there is limited data on its efficacy against the Omicron variant. 

How many doses of Novavax has France ordered?

The first vaccinations in France could take place in early February, the French Health Ministry has said. 

France is expected to receive 3.2 million doses in the first quarter of the year, and has an option for a further 3.2 million in the second quarter. 

The first delivery is expected at the end of January, although the Health Ministry warned there could be some delays. 

The contract the European Commission signed with Novavax in August last year allows for the delivery of up to 100 million doses to the EU in the first quarter of the year. Member States can purchase another 100 million over the course of 2022 and 2023. 

A new vaccination cycle for non-mRNA vaccines

The HAS also updated its vaccination cycle policy for people who do not or can not receive mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna). 

It wrote that Novavax and the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine can be used instead, although the combination depends on a person’s age. 

For the first two doses, people aged 55 and over can get two doses of Janssen, taken two months apart. Janssen can also be used as the booster dose (meaning a third dose).

Novavax is available to everyone aged 18 and over (including those over 55), with the first two doses taken three weeks apart. However, as Novavax cannot yet be used as a booster, anyone under 55 currently has the option of either Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech as a booster dose. 

Related stories:

Who are France’s five million unvaccinated - and what are the reasons?

100,000 protest across France against plans for vaccine pass

What changes to the French health pass come into force today?

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