Novavax Approved as Booster Alternative for Australians 18 and Over

Novavax Approved as Booster Alternative for Australians 18 and Over
Vials labeled "COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine" and syringe are seen in front of displayed Novavax logo in this illustration taken on Feb. 9, 2021. (Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters)
Marina Zhang
The Novavax COVID-19 protein vaccine has been approved by the ATAGI as a booster alternative to mRNA vaccines for Australians aged 18 and over.
The ATAGI stated (pdf) that the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine currently has “limited evidence” on its safety and immunogenicity as a booster, but is acceptable as a third shot if “no other COVID-19 vaccine is suitable for that individual.”
Since the protein vaccine’s rollout on Feb. 11, the country is seeing encouraging uptake of first-course vaccination in Australians “who had chosen, for whatever reason, not to be vaccinated earlier,” Deputy Secretary of the TGA, John Skerritt said on Feb. 23.

The vaccine is the first protein-based COVID-19 vaccine to be provisionally approved by the TGA and the Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt revealed on Mar. 2 that the organisation is also “considering” the vaccine to be approved as a heterologous booster for all Australians following a primary course of either Pfizer, Moderna or the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The news of this comes as the Skerritt revealed on Feb. 23 that the TGA is in discussions with Novavax leaders to see if the vaccine can be provisioned as boosters for adults following high uptake of the vaccine since its approval on Feb. 11.

Currently, heterologous booster studies in the UK have shown Novavax administered after a primary shot of Pfizer or AstraZeneca boosted immunity and had an increased cellular immunity when boosted after an AstraZeneca primary course.
Novavax known as Nuvaxovid in Australia, was approved for adults aged 18 years and over in January 2022 and is the first protein-based COVID-19 vaccine in the country’s vaccine arsenal.

It is advised to be used as a primary vaccine only as studies into using Novavax as a booster shot are still in progress.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said in January he hoped Nuvaxovid would increase the nation’s vaccination rates.

“We know that some people have waited for this vaccine, and … hopefully, this will encourage those people in the last five percent to come forward,” Hunt said.

Australia secured 51 million doses of the vaccine to complement the national COVID-19 vaccine rollout with Hunt noting on Feb. 23 the federal government had seen a huge uptake of the protein-based jab.
“We’ve seen an uptake of about 12,000 Novavax so far, well ahead of what we'd anticipated in this time frame. And so that’s providing an additional option for people who, for whatever their circumstances, may not have been confident or may not have been able to have taken one of the other vaccine options that’s available,” he said.

Discussions On Novavax For Children

Skerrit also revealed on Feb. 23 that the TGA is in discussions with Novavax to see if the vaccine can be provisioned for children.

Novavax has announced previously that its vaccine showed 82 percent efficacy against the Delta variant in the 12- to 17-year-old cohort according to new clinical trial data involving 2,200 adolescents across the United States.

“We are encouraged by the results in this adolescent population given the ongoing need for alternative vaccine options for COVID-19,” Novavax Chief Medical Officer Filip Dubovsky said.

“We believe the Novavax vaccine offers a differentiated technology and option for this younger population given its established protein-based technology already used in other vaccines, and the positive responses demonstrated against variants.”

This comes after it a U.S. study found that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was not effective in preventing infection among children in the 5-year-old to 11-year-old cohort and that the vaccine effectiveness against severe disease also plummeted.

The researchers, with the New York State Department of Health and the University at Albany School of Public Health, examined outcomes among children using three-state databases, including two systems that collect vaccination data. They assessed two outcomes: COVID-19 cases and COVID-19 hospital admissions, regardless of whether the patients were admitted for other reasons.

The results demonstrated that Pfizer’s vaccine dropped from 68 percent in mid-December 2021 to just 12 percent in the last full week in January.

The data also suggested the protection against severe disease plummeted, from 100 percent in mid-December to 48 percent in late January.

“In the Omicron era, the effectiveness against cases of BNT162b2 declined rapidly for children, particularly those 5-11 years,” the study said.

The TGA and ATAGI promised that they will continue to monitor emerging evidence on all COVID-19 vaccines.

Skerrit said that the TGA is also looking into the Australian-made protein vaccine COVAX-19, which has already been approved for use in Iran.

Epoch Times reporter Zachary Stieber contributed to this article.
Marina Zhang is a health writer for The Epoch Times, based in New York. She mainly covers stories on COVID-19 and the healthcare system and has a bachelors in biomedicine from The University of Melbourne. Contact her at [email protected].
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