The U.S. may get a fourth coronavirus vaccine before the end of the year. On Monday, the results of a large-scale clinical trial for Novavax’s COVID-19 shot reported it’s safe and 90 percent effective against the disease.
The long-awaited, encouraging results come from a study of the two-shot vaccine involved nearly 30,000 people ages 18 and up in the U.S. and Mexico. Two-thirds received the two doses of the vaccine, three weeks apart; the other one-third received two shots of a placebo. By the end of the trial, there were 77 cases of COVID-19 in the study: 63 cases in the placebo group compared to 14 in the vaccine group. According to the Maryland-based drug maker, all of the vaccinated cases were mild. The trial’s results are consistent with those from an earlier clinical trial Novavax ran in the U.K., which found that the shots were around 89 percent effective.
Novavax’s jab works differently than the current crop of vaccines available. It’s what’s known as a protein subunit vaccine, meaning that the shot uses a lab-made version of just the coronavirus’s namesake spike protein. That spike protein makes the human body generate protective antibodies against it.
Novavax said on Monday it plans to apply for emergency-use authorization of its vaccine in the U.S. in the third quarter of this year, possibly becoming the fourth weapon in the nation’s vaccine arsenal along with the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson jabs. The company also said it was on track to manufacture 100 million doses per month by the end of that quarter, upping production to 150 million per month by the end of the year. That could make a difference outside of the U.S., where countries are struggling to create enough vaccines for their populations: Last month, Novavax signed a deal to supply the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations, a global vaccine sharing partnership, with 350 million doses.