France has ordered 3.2 million Covid vaccine doses from the American pharmaceutical company Novavax for the first quarter of 2022 – and may order a further 3.2 million for the second.
The first shipments, amounting to 1.14 million doses began arriving in the country this week. Of this first delivery, some 600,000 doses will be immediately sent to France’s overseas territories, where vaccination rates are generally lower.
The Health Ministry told Ouest France that vaccination with these vaccines will begin in the first week of March.
What makes this vaccine different?
The Novavax vaccine is what is known as a ‘protein sub-unit’ vaccine.
This means it works differently to viral vector vaccines made by AstraZeneca and Jansses or mRNA vaccines made by Pfzier and Moderna.
Protein sub-unit vaccines works by injecting a piece of the virus – in this case, the spike protein – into the patient.
The patient’s immune system then learns to recognise spike proteins which allows better protection against Covid in the future.
In a statement given to Le Figaro, the health ministry said the fact that this vaccine works differently to the others may be enough to convince vaccine sceptics to get their shots.
“Its particular technology could mean that it is orientated towards reticent people or those who cannot be vaccinated via an mRNA vaccine,” it said.
The European Medicines Agency has recommended its use for anyone over the age of 18, but not for children.
How will it be administered?
The vaccine has only been authorised in France for the initial two vaccinations – not the booster shot for people already vaccinated with another vaccine. French authorities say this is because of a lack of research into the use of Novavax as a booster.
It will only be available to people over the age of 18 and administered through vaccine centres, pharmacies and doctors from March.
The exact start date is still to be confirmed.
How effective is it?
Clinical trials have shown the Novavax vaccine, technically known as Nuvaxovid, to be 90 percent effective in preventing symptomatic Covid and 100 percent effective in preventing serious illness.
The Canadian health ministry also released preliminary data that suggests it is effective in producing Omicron-neutralising antibodies.
Novavax declared at the start of the month that the vaccine was 80 percent effective in treating people aged between 12-17.
The Haute autorité de santé, an advisory body to the French government on health policy, has said that mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) should still be given as a priority, judging them to be more effective.