The Novavax Covid vaccine, which may be just days from approval in the UK, may be safer for children than the UK’s current jabs, experts say.
The hope is that the US shot – which uses proven and true vaccine technology and is manufactured in Teeside – can reduce hesitation and increase uptake in children.
The British government already has 60 million doses of Novavax on order and trials show that it is 96 percent effective in adults.
The vaccine, scientifically known as NVX-CoV2373, would be the first protein-based jab approved in the UK, if given the green light.
Protein-based jabs are already given to children to protect against influenza, meningitis and hepatitis.
Experts told MailOnline that an approval of the vaccine could pave the way for the needle to be rolled out to children, as well as to encourage vaccine vaccineers to come forward.
Final study data were submitted to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) last month and approval is expected within a few days.
Novavax’s injection, officially known as NVX-CoV2373, would be the first protein-based jab approved in the UK, if given the green light. Protein-based jabs are already given to children to protect against flu, meningitis and hepatitis
Other injections of Covid already approved in the UK are either viral vector vaccines made from a common cold virus (AstraZeneca), or an mRNA vaccine made from enzymes (Pfizer and Moderna).
Novavax’s contains proteins that mimic the nails of the coronavirus, which causes the body to produce antibodies to fight the infection.
If the body encounters coronavirus in the future, the body is ready to ward it off.
The injection is given in two doses at 21 day intervals. Unlike other jabs that need to be stored at extremely cold temperatures, Novavax can be stored in a standard refrigerator for up to three months.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE NOVAVAX COVID VACCINE THAT PREVENTED MORE THAN 90% OF HUMANS GET SICK
How does the vaccine work?
The Novavax vaccine works like other vaccines by teaching the immune system to make antibodies to the coronavirus nail protein.
Researchers inserted a modified gene into a virus, called baculovirus, and allowed it to infect insect cells.
Nail proteins from these cells were then assembled into nanoparticles that, although resembling coronavirus, could not replicate or cause Covid-19. These nanoparticles are then injected into the body via the vaccine where the immune system triggers an antibody response.
If the body encounters coronavirus in the future, the body is ready to ward it off. The vaccine is given as two doses.
Are there any benefits to the Novavax vaccine?
Yes. While the jabs from Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna need to be stored at ultra-low temperatures, the Novavax jab is stable for up to three months in a standard refrigerator.
How effective is the vaccine?
According to the results of Phase III trials, jab offers 100 percent protection against serious illness, including all hospitalizations and deaths.
It is 86 percent effective against the Alpha (Kent) variant and 100 percent effective in preventing cases caused by the original strain of the coronavirus.
Has the Novavax vaccine been approved?
Not yet. The UK’s Medicines and Health Care Authority examines jab data.
In the United States, the data will be reviewed by regulators at the Food and Drug Administration after Novavax applied for an emergency permit.
And Phase Three of Maryland-based Novavax by more than 15,000 people in the UK found Jab had an efficacy rate of 96.4 against mild, moderate and severe disease caused by the original coronavirus strain.
At the same time, a trial with the vaccine of 30,000 people in the United States and Mexico found that it provided 100 percent protection against moderate and severe illness.
Protein vaccines already in use include hepatitis B and meningitis, which are routinely given to newborns.
The vaccines currently used in the UK have saved thousands of lives, while hEalth chiefs said the rollout to children will help keep them in school classrooms.
More than 1 million students were forced to miss school in a single week in England in July due to the virus.
But one in ten over 18s in England has not yet received their first dose on 18 November.
And enrollment among 12- to 15-year-olds was only 38.4 percent, while 63.9 percent of 16- to 17-year-olds had received a first dose.
The small risk that the virus poses to children, as well as concerns about myocarditis after vaccination, are believed to be factors behind the low uptake.
Data from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization show that up to one in 56,000 12- to 15-year-olds will get myocarditis after their first Covid jab.
But the frequency jumps to as many as one in 23,000 cases after other doses, so the cohort currently only gets a single bite.
And the AstraZeneca shock has been linked to blood clots in younger people, forcing health officials to limit the use of the Oxford-made injection to over 40s.
But test data from Novavax show that the stick only triggered mild and short-lived side effects, without any serious side effects.
Its study did not include those under 18 years of age and was not large enough to detect any of the very rare side effects, but found that adults generally tolerated the sting well, with reported side effects being mild and short-lived.
Novavax is currently testing its jab on 2,200 12- to 17-year-olds in the United States.
The other Covid vaccines also showed similar results in a trial phase, but experts are hopeful that the Novavax findings will remain strong if jab is rolled out in the population.
Professor Neil Mabbott, chair of immunopathology at the University of Edinburgh, told MailOnlinethe because the stick has fewer side effects than the current harvest of injections used in the UK, Novavax can offer an alternative approach to use in children that can avoid the very low risk of develop potentially serious side effects ”.
And similar protein-based technology has been used for several years in routine childhood vaccines, he said.
Professor Mabbott said: “This can help provide some security for those who have so far been hesitant to come forward to get their own Covid vaccine.
“This can also help alleviate parents’ concerns about the use of these vaccines in children. This can have a positive impact on vaccine intake.”
He added: “It is important to mention that serious side effects such as blood clots and heart inflammation after vaccination with the mRNA-based (Pfizer or Modern) and adenovirus-based (AstraZeneca or Janssen) Covid vaccines have been very rare.
The UK has ordered 60 million doses of the Novavax vaccine. In total, the UK has ordered more than 400 million doses of eight different vaccines, but only four have so far been approved by the MHRA: AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen
“The use of these vaccines to protect against serious illness or death following coronavirus infection continues to outweigh the very low risk of side effects.”
However, he noted that approval of the Novavax vaccine “could have a positive effect on vaccine intake by encouraging as many people as possible to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus”.
MHRA decides whether a vaccine should be approved based on data on safety, quality and efficacy.
The agency told MailOnline that it could not give advice when it expects to issue a decision due to commercial confidentiality.
And Novavax told MailOnline that “the timeline is in the hands of regulators”.
Dr Michael Head, a senior researcher in global health at the University of Southampton, told MailOnline: “A new vaccine approval will be excellent news.
“The publicly available information about Novavax looks very promising, both in terms of efficiency, but most importantly also with security.
“The existing covid-19 vaccines are excellent. But if extra people can be persuaded to be vaccinated because Novavax is a ‘proven’ approach to vaccine development, then it can only be good. ‘
Dr Alexander Edwards, an associate professor of biomedical technology at the University of Reading, told MailOnline that the Novavax vaccine is “very exciting” because it is made differently from the other Covid jabs used in the UK and contains very different ingredients.
He said: ‘The more different tools we have to reduce the damage caused by Covid, the better.
“All vaccines stimulate antibody responses that effectively neutralize the virus and prevent it from growing in our bodies – and the main benefit of this is a really impressive reduction in the risk of serious disease.
“But it also helps slow down the spread, so getting vaccinated protects you but also helps others.”