Bill Gates says J&J and Novavax Covid vaccines have ‘a lot of capability’ against variants

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Source: CNBC

Bill Gates told CNBC that Johnson & Johnson’s and Novavax’s vaccines will still be essential tools against new, emerging variants of the coronavirus — even though the companies have said their shots may be less potent against a strain found in South Africa.

Novavax said on Jan. 28 that its vaccine was nearly 90% effective in protecting against Covid-19 in its phase three trial conducted in the U.K. but had a muted response in South Africa, with an efficacy rate of just 49.4% among 44 cases in the country. A day later, J&J said its vaccine was 66% effective overall, but just 57% effective in South Africa, where strain B.1.351 is rapidly spreading.

Gates, whose foundation has donated millions to coronavirus vaccine and treatment research, told CNBC that the two vaccines, which have not yet been authorized for use in the United States, can be effective against coronavirus mutations.

People understand that “there is reduced efficacy, although Novavax and Johnson & Johnson still retain a lot of capability against those variants,” he told CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin in an interview that aired Thursday on “Squawk Box.”

Gates questioned whether a third dose of a vaccine would be enough of a boost to protect against new variants.

“There’s a rich dialogue between our foundation, Dr. Fauci and the other government people right now about this variant strategy,” said Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and co-founder of Microsoft.

Gates’ comments come as U.S. officials push Americans to get vaccinated as quickly as possible before potentially new and even more dangerous variants of the virus emerge.

As of Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified 1,277 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the U.K. The agency has identified 19 cases of the B.1.351 strain from South Africa as well as three cases of P.1, a variant first identified in Brazil.

The U.S. needs to rapidly deploy Covid vaccines and ramp up its genetic sequencing of variants before the virus can mutate again and make the pandemic even worse, the head of the CDC said in a paper published on Wednesday.

The B.1.1.7 variant has proven to be highly transmissible, and “preliminary data suggest the possibility of increased severity of disease with infection,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky wrote in a research opinion published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, or JAMA.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical advisor and the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, has repeatedly said in recent weeks that viruses cannot mutate if they don’t have hosts to infect and are unable to replicate.

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Categories: Vaccine, Video

4 replies

  1. Novavax (NVAX) announced an agreement late Thursday that it would supply 1.1 billion doses of its coronavirus vaccine to a key global initiative — pushing NVAX stock to pop.

    The biotech company will provide the doses to COVAX, an initiative led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the World Health Organization and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. COVAX is working to ensure equitable vaccine access globally.

    Under the memorandum of understanding, Novavax and Serum Institute of India will manufacture and distribute the vaccine doses globally.

    “We are proud to partner with all the COVAX collaborators and Serum Institute of India to provide global public health leadership and ensure that all countries have broad access to (the vaccine called) NVX-CoV2373,” Novavax Chief Executive Stanley Erck said in a written statement.

    In after-hours trading on the stock market today, NVAX stock jumped 10.6% near 292.50.

  2. Currently, the U.S. is administering 1.6 million doses a day, constrained by the recent supply of about 10 million to 15 million doses a week. But Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers and U.S. officials have accelerated their production timelines and signaled that the spigots are about to open, providing hundreds of millions of doses to match the growing capacity to immunize people at pharmacies and mass-vaccination sites.

    A review of drugmakers’ public statements and their supply deals suggests that the number of vaccines delivered should rise to almost 20 million a week in March, more than 25 million a week in April and May, and over 30 million a week June. By summer, it would be enough to give 4.5 million shots a day.

    Bloomberg’s analysis is based on company and government statements, data on the number of shots already delivered and conversations with people familiar with the manufacturing effort who spoke on condition of anonymity. The analysis assumes drugmakers will meet their new delivery targets — not a guarantee in a year-old pandemic where much has gone wrong.

  3. Shares of Novavax Inc. NVAX, -11.80% were down 6.2% in trading on Monday after the company said it had completed enrollment of the Phase 3 clinical trial for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate in Mexico and the U.S. Novavax said that 20% of the roughly 30,000 trial participants are LatinX, 13% are African Americans, 6% are Native Americans, and 5% are Asian Americans. Separately, 13% of all trial participants are 65 years old or older. Novavax’s experimental vaccine requires two doses, spaced 21 days apart. The company last month disclosed preliminary findings from a late-stage trial of the same vaccine that is being conducted in the United Kingdom.

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