Novavax’s COVID-19 Vaccine shows some protection against South African variant

Results from the Maryland-based biotech’s NVX-CoV2373 Phase 2b trial shows efficacy of 51%.



Preliminary results recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicated the vaccine is highly efficacious and provided protection against the B. 1. 351 variant, prevalent in South Africa. The Phase 2b trial for the vaccine was led by Professor Shabir Madhi, a senior author for the study and Director of the Vaccines & Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit at the University of the Witwatersrand. According to Mahdi, while that 51% number might not sound great, expectations for this first generation of COVID-19 vaccines needs to be recalibrated, especially for countries such as South Africa where B. 1. 351 dominates. Importantly, the 51% efficacy is just over the World Health Organization’s 50% threshold for approval.


The trial which started in November 2020 involved 2,600 participants in South Africa. A Phase 3 study for the vaccine is currently underway in the U.K. While researchers continue their pursuit to find the safest and most efficacious vaccine to combat the pandemic, the coronavirus is undergoing mutations with new strains being identified. The South African variant, B. 1. 351, is associated with many mutations and increased in-hospital mortality and was found to be most prevalent in patients within a younger age group (+/- 30 years). With the country having resumed its Sisonke rollout programme and having recently received the first batch of Pfizer’s vaccine, the news of from Novavax’s trial are a welcomed boost.