The High Authority for Health (HAS) authorized, on Friday January 14, the use in France of the vaccine of the American firm Novavax against the coronavirus, with more classic technology and different from the vaccines already widely used in the European Union. This vaccine had been approved on December 20 in the European Union and its use in France was subject to the opinion of the HAS.
This vaccine will be the fifth to be available in France. Even if four vaccines were previously authorized in France, those of Pfizer and Moderna are, in fact, almost exclusively used. They are based on an unprecedented technology, messenger RNA. The other two, those of AstraZeneca and Janssen, are redirected to poor countries via the international Covax programme.
Responsible for defining France’s vaccination policy, the HAS considers in its new opinion that we must “prefer” mRNA vaccines for the first injections as well as for the booster, due to their high efficiency. However, it judges that Novavax and Janssen “represent an additional option” for people who “unwilling or unable to receive” mRNA vaccines. These are the “people reluctant to mRNA vaccines” or of “those who experienced a serious adverse event after a first injection”.
“An additional option”
In the context of an epidemic outbreak due to the Omicron variant, it is “essential to complete the coverage for the primary vaccination and to accelerate the booster campaign” among these people, insists the HAS. For the first two doses, these people can be vaccinated with either Janssen (two months between doses) or Novavax (three weeks between doses), provided they are 55 years of age or older.
If they are under 55, they can be vaccinated with Novavax. If he is unavailable, Janssen may ” exceptionally “ be used after informing the person that the risk of side effects is increased in this age group.
As a reminder, the HAS estimates that Janssen can be used in people aged 55 and over, even if they have had two doses of the mRNA vaccine before. On the other hand, Novavax should never be used as a booster, for lack of clinical trials.
The first injections in France of the Novavax vaccine could take place ” at the beginning of February “, said the Ministry of Health last week. Still according to the ministry, France must receive “3.2 million doses” of this vaccine in the first trimester, and has offered an option for “3.2 million additional doses” in the second trimester. The first deliveries are expected ” at the end of January “ according to the ministry, but “signs indicate that there could be delays”.
This vaccine has the particularity of not using messenger RNA technology, unlike those of Pfizer and Moderna (the only two hegemonic today in France after the gradual abandonment of those of AstraZeneca and Janssen). Sold under the name Nuvaxovid, this vaccine manufactured by the American laboratory Novavax is a so-called “subunit” : it contains a component of the virus (and not the whole virus like the most classic vaccines), introduced into the body to trigger an immune response.
It is on this technique that the vaccines against pertussis, meningococcal meningitis and hepatitis B are based. This could remove the reluctance of people who refuse to be vaccinated because the mRNA technology is brand new. “May (this vaccine) be a strong encouragement for the non-vaccinated or those who have not done their recall! », had thus hoped the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, when approved in the EU.