FAQ | SII's Covovax COVID Vaccine Gets WHO Approval: What is it?

Covovax becomes the 9th COVID-19 vaccine in the world to be added to WHO's list of approved vaccines.

FAQ | SII's Covovax COVID Vaccine Gets WHO Approval: What is it?

The World Health Organization granted emergency approval to the version of Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine being produced in India, on Friday, 17 December, making it the 9th COVID-19 vaccine in the world to be included in WHO's list of approved vaccines.

The Serum Institute of India has licenced and is currently producing the US-based pharmaceutical company's vaccine under the brand name Covovax.

Getting a WHO listing means that the vaccine can now be distributed to low income countries as part of the COVAX vaccine supply.

The WHO in a statement said that they hope the distribution of Covovax will give, "a much-needed boost to ongoing efforts to vaccinate more people in lower-income countries."

What is Covovax? How does it work? Has it been approved in India?

FIT answers your FAQs.


What is Covovax?

US based biotechnology company, Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine candidate, NVX-CoV2373, is a subunit protein vaccine.

The version that's being produced by Serum Institute of India is called Covovax. This is the version that has been added to WHO's EUA list.

It is a two-dose vaccine just like the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Covaxin Vaccines.

And like these vaccines, Covovax targets the spike protein on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

But, it uses a different platform, and is produced by creating an engineered baculovirus containing a gene for a modified SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

According to the WHO, by extending their EUL to Covovax, they hope to expand vaccine coverage in the world, particularly in low income countries.

Has the original Novavax COVID-19 vaccine received WHO EUL?

No, the vaccine being produced by Novavax, called Nuvaxovid, is currently under review by the European Medicine Agency. According to the WHO, they will start assessing it themselves only after EMA has issued its recommendation.

What do we know about the vaccine's efficacy?

Back in June, Novavax announced that their COVID-19 vaccine has an effectiveness of over 90 percent in preventing symptomatic infection from the original strain of COVID, and also against new variants.

However, this was before the Omicron variant—said to spread 4 times as fast as the Delta variant— was identified.

Does Covovax provide protection against Omicron?

As of now there is no data regarding how well the vaccine protects against the Omicron variant.

However, in their statement, WHO expressed confidence in Covovax's efficacy against all variants of concern that are currently in circulation.

“Even with new variants emerging, vaccines remain one of the most effective tools to protect people against serious illness and death from SARS-COV-2,” said Dr Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant-Director General for Access to Medicines and Health Products in a statement.

When will the vaccine be available in India

Although it is being produced in India, Covovax has not been approved for use in India. However, this may change soon.

Back in March, Adar Poonawalla announced the commencement of clinical trials for the vaccine in India, and that they hoped to launch it by September.

One of the reasons for the delay in rollout given by the company was that of a US export ban on certain products essential to produce the vaccine. The ban has since been lifted.

Until Covovax gets is cleared by the health authorities and granted an EUA in India. We can't say for certain when the vaccine will be rolled out.

The WHO listing, however, is likely to help its case.

In the meantime, SII has also announced that they are also testing Covovax for use in children.

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