LONDON – U.S.-based Novavax has begun a late stage trial of its potential COVID-19 vaccine in the United Kingdom because the high-level of the coronavirus circulating in the country is likely to produce quick results, the pharmaceutical company said.
Novavax plans to test the effectiveness of its vaccine in a trial involving 10,000 people between the ages of 18 and 84, according to a statement issued late Thursday. At least 25% of the subjects will be over the age of 65, and 400 participants will also receive a licensed flu vaccine.
The trial is being conducted in partnership with the U.K. government’s Vaccine Taskforce, which was created in April to help speed the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“With a high level of SARS-CoV-2 transmission observed and expected to continue in the U.K., we are optimistic that this pivotal phase 3 clinical trial will enroll quickly and provide a near-term view of (the vaccine’s) efficacy,” Dr. Gregory M. Glenn, head of research and development for Novavax, said in the statement.
The announcement comes as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the U.K. The government reported 6,634 new positive test results on Thursday — the U.K.’s highest daily number since the pandemic began. Britain has the deadliest outbreak in Europe, with nearly 42,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths.
Drugmakers are rushing to develop COVID-19 vaccines with the backing of governments desperate to find a way of easing restrictions that have hammered the world economy.
The U.K. has already agreed to buy 60 million doses of the Novavax vaccine to ensure it can be distributed as quickly as possible if it is approved by regulators.
The government said Friday that participants in the Novavax trial will be drawn from the 250,000 people who have volunteered to take part in COVID-19 vaccine testing through the National Health Service’s Vaccine Registry.
“Finding a safe and effective vaccine that works for the majority of the U.K. population is the best way to tackle this devastating disease,” said Kate Bingham, chair of the government’s Vaccines Taskforce. “Whilst social distancing, testing and other measures can help reduce the impact of coronavirus, the only long-term solution to beating it will be finding a vaccine.”
Novavax also pledged to publish details of its vaccine testing protocol “to enhance information-sharing during the worldwide pandemic.”
Drugmakers are under pressure to release more information about the progress of their vaccine trials — information they normally wouldn’t release until the trials are complete — to increase public confidence in their work.
Several other big pharmaceutical firms, including AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer, have already released the protocols for their trials.