Germany hopes new Novavax COVID jab might convince vaccine sceptics
Novavax recently became the fifth coronavirus vaccine approved for use by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Unlike the COVID vaccines in use until now, the new jab is protein-based - and there is hope that might persuade those in Germany who have so far refused to get the shot.
Novavax to be rolled out in Germany in January 2022
The first doses of Novavax are expected to be administered in Germany sometime in early 2022, just over 12 months after the first patient in the federal republic received their shot. More than 61 million Germans have now been vaccinated - an incredible achievement - but a significant proportion of the population still remains unprotected.
While there are undoubtedly hardcore sceptics out there who would refuse any kind of vaccine, in Germany some of the reluctance is being put down to the type of vaccines available. Despite multiple assurances to the contrary, some people are wary of the new technology used to create the novel mRNA vaccines like the Pfizer and Moderna shots - and the apparent speed at which they were produced. They have refused the jab due to concerns about side- or long-term health effects.
Novavax is a protein COVID vaccine with 90 percent efficacy
Novavax, on the other hand, uses an older type of technology - sometimes called (erroneously in this case) a “dead vaccine” or (more accurately) a protein vaccine. It contains tiny particles from a synthetic version of the virus’s spike protein, which prompt the immune system to form antibodies.
In clinical testing, it has been found to have a 90 percent efficacy in preventing symptomatic infection with the Alpha variant of coronavirus, and is currently undergoing further testing to see how it measures up against the Omicron variant.
Could Novavax convince the vaccine sceptics in Germany?
Across Europe, but particularly in Germany, health experts are hopeful that the new vaccine will help to persuade those who have so far been hesitant. “It would be my great hope that unvaccinated people aged over 60 can now make better friends with the protein-based vaccine,” said Christine Falk, President of the German Society for Immunology, to ARD.
The signs are promising. In a Forsa poll this autumn, 56 percent of participants said their willingness to get vaccinated would rise if the vaccine in question was based on “classical methods," like Novavax. Just 5 percent said that the other persuasive tools the government has toyed with so far - such as monetary rewards or exclusion from certain social spaces under 2G rules - would encourage them to get the shot.
In a separate survey of unvaccinated people, 40 percent said that they weren't totally against getting vaccinated, but instead only hesitant and could be persuaded.
However, others have warned against pinning all of Germany’s hopes on the new vaccine. “I am a bit sceptical,” said Thomas Aẞmann to NTV. “If we take into account that the new mRNA vaccines they are fearful of have now been successfully administered around 7 to 8 billion times, I am concerned that those who say they’re holding out for the “classic” vaccines will now look at the figures and say Novavax can’t be trusted yet.”
Even German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has his doubts. “We should desist from assuming Novavax will be a gamechanger,” he told Bild, adding that, since the mRNA vaccines had been administered billions of times, they should be considered “a whole lot safer.”