Home South African Wits screens volunteers for second Covid-19 vaccine trial

Wits screens volunteers for second Covid-19 vaccine trial

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Vaccine in the SA trial leverages technology used successfully to develop vaccines against flu and experimental vaccines against Ebola and Respiratory Syncytial Virus.

File picture: Reuters

WITS University was on Monday expected to start screening participants for a second Covid-19 vaccine trial.

NVX-CoV2373 is the second vaccine the institution hopes will fight the virus following Ox1-Cov19 that was launched in June.

The Phase 2 trial in South Africa was expected to evaluate if NVX-CoV2373 protects against Covid-19 disease in adults aged between 18 and 64.

According to Wits, NVX-CoV2373 is produced by the biotech company Novavax and studies of the vaccine in non-human primates have shown protection against SARS-Cov-2 infection in upper airways (nasal passages) as well as protection against lower airway (lung) disease.

“This vaccine candidate is engineered from the genetic sequence of SARS‑CoV‑2, the virus that causes Covid-19 disease. In preclinical studies, NVX‑CoV2373 demonstrated the elicitation of antibodies that block the binding of spike protein to receptors targeted by the virus – this is a critical aspect for effective vaccine protection,” Wits said.

Wits Professor of Vaccinology Shabir Madhi said the Novavax vaccine in the South African trial leverages technology used successfully to develop vaccines against flu and experimental vaccines against Ebola and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

“The major motivation for Covid-19 vaccines being evaluated at an early stage in South Africa is to generate evidence in the African context on how well these vaccines work in settings such as our own,” says Madhi.

“This would enable informed decision-making when advocating for the adoption of this (NVX-CoV2373 vaccine candidate) or other Covid-19 vaccines in African countries, once they are shown to be safe and effective.

“Participating in the clinical development of these vaccines at the outset will assist in advocating for South Africans to be amongst the first in line to access these life-saving vaccines, once they become available,” he said.

Madhi previously collaborated with Novavax as a lead investigator on the RSV vaccine for pregnant women, which aimed to prevent the most common cause of pneumonia in babies.

Those who want to volunteer for the trial can visit https://vidatrack.co.za.

Safety and immunogenicity (the ability of a foreign substance, such as an antigen, to provoke an immune response) data from Part 1 of the Novavax Phase 1/2 randomised, observer-blinded, placebo-controlled trial of its Covid‑19 vaccine with and without Matrix‑M™ adjuvant in healthy adults 18-59 years old, conducted in Australia, have been submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration and an independent safety monitoring committee.

In this Phase 1 clinical trial, NVX-CoV2373 was generally well-tolerated and elicited robust antibody responses numerically superior to that seen in human convalescent sera. The data has been submitted for peer review to a scientific journal and are available online.