American company Novavax said on Thursday that its vaccine appears to be 89% effective based on early findings from a British study.
It also seems to work – though not as well – against new mutated versions of the virus circulating in UK and South Africa, and now elsewhere, reports the Associated Press.
The announcement comes amid worry about whether a variety of vaccines being rolled out around the world will be strong enough to protect against new variants, and as countries desperately need to boost scarce supplies.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC the NHS “stands ready” to roll the jab out if it is approved.
He said: “This is positive news and, if approved by the medicines regulator, the Novavax vaccine will be a significant boost to our vaccination programme and another weapon in our arsenal to beat this awful virus.”
Novavax said the trials suggest the vaccine is nearly 96% effective against the older coronavirus and nearly 86% effective against the new variants.
“Both those numbers are dramatic demonstrations of the ability of our vaccine to develop a very potent immune response,” Novavax CEO Stanley Erck said in a call with investors late on Thursday.
Novavax said it needs some additional data before it can seek British authorisation for the vaccine’s use, sometime in the next month or so.
A larger study in the US and Mexico has enrolled slightly over half of the needed 30,000 volunteers.
Meanwhile, Novavax is starting to develop a version of the vaccine that could more specifically target the mutations found in South Africa and the UK.
Vaccines against Covid-19 train the body to recognise the new coronavirus, mostly focusing on the spike protein that coats it.
The Novavax vaccine is called a recombinant protein vaccine. It uses genetic engineering to grow harmless copies of the coronavirus spike protein in insect cells. Scientists extract and purify the protein and then mix in an immune-boosting chemical.