Novavax says its COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective against variants of the virus

Avis Blanton of Lithonia, Georgia, was one of nearly 30,000 volunteers in the PREVENT-19 Novavax vaccine clinical trial held in the US and Mexico.

Blanton, who works for a DeKalb County engineering company, was part of the Morehouse School of Medicine arm of the study.

She delayed getting vaccinated in order to take part in the research, which began in late January.

In a press release Monday, the Maryland-based company announced its vaccine provided just over 90% protection against currently circulating strains of the coronavirus in the trial.

MORE: Novavax says COVID-19 vaccine about 90% effective in large study

The company says the vaccine provided 93% efficacy against predominantly circulating Variants of Concern and Variants of Interest and 91% efficacy in high-risk populations.

Novavax says the vaccine offered 100% protection against moderate to severe disease.

All of the COVID-19 hospitalizations and one death occurred in the non-vaccinated, or placebo, group, the company says.

"I was glad," Blanton says.  "I'm glad it was effective.  I told people I was in a study, and with the other vaccines already out, people looked at me kind of puzzled. But, I tell there are other vaccines being developed for the virus."

Dr. Lilly Immergluck, the principal investigator of the PREVENT-19 study at Morehouse School of Medicine, says their study participants reported few side effects. 

Many, she says, were people of color, from groups hit especially hard by the virus.

"In our trial, we have about 60% African Americans, 10% LatinX community and 6% Asians," Dr. Immergluck says. "I say that to say that, overall, this is a community to which we want to make sure we're a trusted source. And, I'm just very pleased to know about the efficacy data that has come out."

Dr. Immergluck says she is elated the vaccine performed so well, especially against newer variants of the virus that were not around when Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were tested.

The Novavax vaccine is also made with older, more familiar technology,  microbiologist and immunologist Dr. Amber Schmidtke, Ph.D. says could win over some Americans who shied away from the newer Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.

"It's possible that this will help some of those folk that are weirded out by the mRNA or DNA vaccines," Schmidtke says. So, perhaps it will help with some of the wariness that has existed there."

Still, demand for another vaccine may be lagging, at least the U.S.

Vaccinations are slowing down across the country, and the US already has 3 COVID-19 vaccines approved for emergency use.

So, Schmidtke says, the two-shot Novavax vaccine, if approved, may be a better fit for other countries in need of vaccine.

Or, she says, it could be used if Americans need booster shots in the fall or winter.

"We don't fully know what that's going to look like," Schmidtke says.  "But, chances are, you'll be able to get the booster through whichever manufacturer you want.  So, for example, I got Moderna this time around and I could get Pfizer or Novavax if that's available.  So, it will really provide more options to people to really get whatever vaccine is available at that location."

Avis Blanton had a sore arm right after her shot, but no other side effects. 

She says one plus of getting vaccinated through a clinical trial is that she will be medically monitored for the next two years. 

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