Novavax rollout fast-tracked

Matt Woodley

14/02/2022 4:43:14 PM

After months of delays, the rollout of Australia’s fourth COVID vaccine began over the weekend.

Novavax sign.
Around 1600 general practices have signed up to take part in the Novavax rollout. (Image: AAP)

General practices around Australia have begun receiving the Novavax COVID vaccine, after an initial shipment of three million doses passed Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) batch testing at the end of last week.
The first dose was administered at a general practice in Melbourne on Saturday, with the remaining 3500 administration sites that have already signed up – including 1600 general practices – due to receive allotments over the next week and a half.
Trials of the protein-based vaccine found it had more than 90% efficacy in preventing COVID-19 infection and was 100% effective at preventing severe cases of the disease among the study cohort, but it is not known what impact the emergence of Omicron could have on those figures.
According to the most recent COVID-19 response update for primary care, the Department of Health (DoH) is uncertain about how much demand there will be for the vaccine candidate, given more than 94% of Australians over 16 have already received two doses and Novavax is not yet approved as a booster.
However, reports of patients ‘waiting for Novavax’ have been widespread and First Assistant Secretary of the DoH’s COVID-19 primary care response, Dr Lucas de Toca, said during the webinar the department is ‘genuinely interested’ to see what the actual uptake of Novavax will be.
‘We all have, and you all have experienced in your practices, stories of patients or friends who are reluctant to get the mRNA or adenovirus vector vaccines and are waiting for Novavax … [but] the numbers are not huge overall,’ he said.
‘The absolute ceiling is actually low because … there are about 900,000 people left in Australia who are 18 years and over and haven’t had a primary course of the vaccine, so that’s the upper limit really of the individuals who could get Novavax.
‘It’s hard to estimate what proportion [of unvaccinated people will want Novavax] … we are using 5–20% as a sort of working estimate to work out how much we need to pump out into the system.
‘So, 100,000 or 200,000 people if we’re optimistic but it’s a little bit unclear whether people were truly waiting for Novavax, [or if] that was a way of justifying vaccine hesitancy.’
Australia has ordered 51 million doses of Novavax, meaning less than 2% of available stock will be used for primary vaccination courses domestically.
However, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has said he expects the company, via its Australian sponsor Biocelect, to apply to the TGA for booster approval ‘soon’.
Novavax has also recently released findings from its phase 3 clinical trial into the vaccine’s use on children aged 12–17, showing an overall efficacy of 80% when the Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was predominant in the US.  
Outside of Australia, doses could also potentially be used to fulfil a pledge to share 60 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with the Indo-Pacific by the end of 2022. As of 9 February, 21.19 million doses had been delivered to regional neighbours as part of the commitment.
Moreover, it is not known when future deliveries are expected, as the company has been forced to delay first-quarter shipments to Europe and some lower-income countries amid struggles to fulfil planned orders for more than 2 billion doses before the end of the year.
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Dr Margaret Anne McAdam   15/02/2022 7:46:55 AM

Not enough vaccine given to general practice. Already have 200 booked and only enough vax for 200 people for 1st and second doses and we havent started yet and dont get vaccine for another week
Hope this is not going to be another vaccine shortage fiasco

Getafix   15/02/2022 2:20:30 PM

The real world side effect profile is going to be interesting to find out. Whether it gets the tick as a booster and kids vaccine will also be interesting.

Dr Raymond Weng Yat Yeow   19/02/2022 11:30:39 PM

"....Not enough vaccine given to general practice. Already have 200 booked.."
Looks like good demand for this Dr Margaret....well done .