The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday (Dec 17) issued an emergency use listing (EUL) to the Serum Institute of India's version of Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine, paving the way for the two companies to ship their doses for the COVAX programme.
The EUL to the shot, Covovax, marks a significant milestone for Novavax as well, after the vaccine had been caught up with delays, especially in ramping up production. Shares of Novavax were up 6.4 per cent on the news.
Novavax's own vaccine Nuvaxovid, though, is currently under assessment by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and the WHO said that it will complete its own assessment of the shot once the EMA has issued its recommendation.
For WHO, the clearance for Covovax will provide a significant boost to improve access to COVID-19 vaccines in poor countries under the COVAX programme, which has been marred by delays this year.
"This listing aims to increase access particularly in lower-income countries, 41 of which have still not been able to vaccinate 10 per cent of their populations, while 98 countries have not reached 40 per cent," Dr Mariangela Simao, WHO assistant director general for Access to Medicines and Health Products said in the statement.
Novavax and Serum Institute, the world's largest vaccine producer, have together committed to providing more than 1.1 billion doses to the COVAX facility.
The protein-based vaccine by Novavax in June was shown to be more than 90 per cent effective, including against a variety of concerning coronavirus variants, in a late-stage United States trial.
"This vaccine can be used in a variety of contexts, and will provide countries with another critical option in the quest to protect their populations," said Seth Berkley, chief executive officer of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance.