- Novavax and the Serum Institute of India plan to supply up to 1.1 billion doses of the biotech's coronavirus vaccine to COVAX, an international consortium aiming to equitably distribute shots around the world.
- The new deal, which supplements a previous agreement, is subject to regulatory approval of a shot now under review in several countries. Novavax released data last month showing its vaccine to be about 90% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in a Phase 3 study in the U.K. Another, larger test is ongoing in the U.S. and Mexico.
- The agreement, signed the same day the U.S. pledged as much as $4 billion in new funding for COVAX, will be a key part of the international effort to provide a safe and effective vaccine to every corner of the globe. COVAX, which also has deals in place with AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson, aims to distribute about 2 billion doses in 2021. Some 190 countries and economies are now involved.
The emergence and spread of infectious coronavirus variants has ratcheted up the already intense urgency to vaccinate as many people around the world as possible.
Even if the virus is contained in one country, its spread in another can lead to new variants that could seed outbreaks elsewhere. Indeed, though vaccination campaigns have sped up considerably in the U.S. and U.K., poorer countries have lagged behind, unable to commit the billions of dollars wealthier nations used to pre-order hundreds of millions of doses.
COVAX, a collaboration between the World Health Organization, philanthropies and governments, has been working for months to ensure those areas have access to vaccines as well. But its aspirations to secure and distribute roughly 2 billion doses in 2021 took a hit when a shot being developed by Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline disappointed in early testing, delaying the vaccine's progress by months. Sanofi had pledged 200 million doses to COVAX, one of the initiative's biggest supply deals.
(COVAX secured 40 million doses from Pfizer and doesn't have a deal with Moderna, though the two were in discussions a few months ago.)
The dual announcements of the framework of a new agreement with Novavax and more funding from the U.S., however, could help fill the gap. Once a final deal is struck, Novavax and its manufacturing partner the Serum Institute will be COVAX's largest vaccine supplier by a wide margin, nearly quadrupling the 300 million doses pre-ordered from AstraZeneca. And the new support from the U.S. is meant to help COVAX buy more supplies and help deliver shots to member countries.
Novavax's shot, which was found to be strongly effective in clinical testing — though less so against newer variants — could be particularly helpful for widespread distribution. Like AstraZeneca's shot, its vaccine has less stringent shipping and storage requirements than the vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer.
Per the terms of the deal, Novavax will provide doses primarily to high-income countries, while the Serum Institute will provide the majority of its supply to low-, middle-, and upper middle-income nations.
Novavax shares climbed 7% in early trading Friday and have skyrocketed from under $20 apiece in May 2020 to more than $280 as its coronavirus vaccine has progressed through testing.