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Updated 8 February 2021

The UAE, having been cited as one of the successful countries in terms of the handling of the pandemic, now has its mass vaccination program underway with the Pfizer/BioNTech, Sinopharm, Sputnik V, and Oxford-AstraZeneca jabs.

The Maryland-based American pharmaceutical giant, Novavax Inc. is another frontrunner amongst the COVID-19 vaccine developers. Countries like India, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada as well as the European Union have already entered into agreements with the company to buy its coronavirus shots. The vaccine is in the process of review in different countries.

Read on to know more about the Novavax vaccine in UAE.

How does the Novavax vaccine work?

Among the available COVID-19 vaccines, there are four distinct types, namely, whole virus (this can again be a weakened form or inactivated coronavirus), protein subunit, nucleic acid (RNA or DNA), and viral vector. The Novavax candidate, NVX-CoV2373, is a pre-fusion protein subunit.

The Novavax vaccine has a gene modified into a virus, called a baculovirus, which allows it to infect insect cells. The infected cells then produce spike proteins that spontaneously join together to form spikes, just as in the case of coronavirus. These spike proteins are assembled into nanoparticles and are then injected into the body via the vaccine. This triggers an antibody response in the body, thus priming the immune system to fight the COVID-19 virus in the future.

While other globally approved vaccines deliver the genetic instructions that make human cells create a key protein of the virus, the Novavax jab injects the proteins directly into the body to evoke an immune response.

It remains stable at 2°C to 8°C (refrigerated) and is shipped in a ready-to-use liquid formulation.

The vaccine is administered in two doses, 21 days apart.

How effective is the Novavax vaccine?

On 28 January, the American company released a press release announcing that it concluded its UK Phase 3 and South Africa Phase 2b clinical trials. The results from all Phase 1, 2, and 3 trials, conducted with more than 37,000 individuals in the UK, the US, South Africa, and Mexico, show that the vaccine has high clinical efficacy of 89.3% against COVID-19 viruses, including the UK and South Africa strains.

The animal study data also pointed towards the prevention of replication of the coronavirus in nasal passages. This translates to a reduction in both, infection as well as transmission rates.

UK Phase 3 Results: The trials consisted of over 15,000 participants between 18-84 years of age, 27% being above 65 years of age. It was observed that the vaccine had 95.6% efficacy against the original COVID-19 strain and 85.6% efficacy against the UK variant strain.

South Africa Phase 2b Results: 94% of the study population, which was HIV-negative, showed 60% efficacy for the prevention of mild, moderate, and severe COVID-19 disease. A comparatively lower efficacy of 49.4% was seen in the overall trial population, including HIV-positive and HIV-negative subjects.

Novavax is already tweaking its vaccine to target the variant better and plans to test it during the second quarter of 2021.

Are there any known side effects?

No severe side effects have been observed in the early trials of the vaccine. The UK’s Phase 3 trials also reported that adverse events “occurred at low levels and were balanced between vaccine and placebo groups”.


Novavax vaccine in the UAE

The company has started the rolling review process in different regulatory agencies across the globe, such as the European Medicines Agency (EMA), US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), and Health Canada.

However, the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) is yet to take it under consideration.


Who’ll get the Novavax shots first?

For 6 weeks, from 7 February to 21 March, all the vaccination centres in the UAE will be dedicated to senior citizens, individuals with chronic illnesses like heart problems, diabetes, and respiratory diseases, and the People of Determination.

If the Novavax vaccine gets emergency authorization in the near future, the same will be applicable to it a well.


Where to get the Novavax shots in the UAE?

The Novavax vaccine is not available yet in the UAE. The UAE has set up numerous vaccination centres across the country. The Novavax vaccine will likely be available at these centres, if and when it gets authorized for emergency use.

How much will the Novavax vaccine cost?

The Novavax vaccine is priced at $16 per dose.

As of now, the UAE is offering other COVID vaccines free of cost to its citizens and residents. Whether or not the Novavax vaccine too, will be made available free of charge, will be clarified by the UAE’s authorities once they approve it.


Registering for the jabs

Once the Novavax shots are rolled out in the UAE, citizens and residents will be able to register for the doses by simply downloading the Dubai Health Authority’s (DHA) smartphone App, filling out the given registration form, and booking a date for the visit. Registration can also be done by calling call the toll-free number 800342 for securing the vaccination appointment.