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COVID-19 VACCINES

Spain recommends that those allergic to other Covid vaccines use Novavax 

Spain’s Health Ministry on Tuesday recommended that people who haven’t been vaccinated against Covid-19 or didn't complete their vaccination due to potential allergic reactions or other side effects from the vaccines available until now, instead have the newly approved Novavax inoculation.   

novavax spain
The Novavax vaccination will consist of two doses, administered 21 days apart in the person’s arm. Photo: Karen Ducey/Getty Images/AFP

Spain’s Public Health Commission has agreed to allocate the new Novavax vaccine to “people who had not yet been able to get vaccinated or who have received an incomplete vaccination due to allergies to any of the components of the other available vaccines, or due to medical advice”.

Novavax will therefore be aimed at over-18s with severe immunosuppression whose bodies did not respond well or at all to the other vaccines administered to them, those who have been advised against inoculation by their doctors, as well as anyone else with a very high risk of severe disease after being infected with Covid. 

The Novavax vaccination will consist of two doses, administered 21 days apart in the patient’s arm.

The start date has not yet been announced but a deal to acquire 2.2 million doses from the EU has already been signed.

The four Covid-19 vaccines used so far in Spain have been Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, although currently only Pfizer and Moderna are being administered. 

The Novavax vaccine – called Nuvaxovid – is the fifth and last to be authorised for use in the EU by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and more recently in Spain by the Spanish Medicines Agency (AEMPS).

The Novavax jab is a protein-based vaccine of the kind used for decades to protect against many childhood illnesses, hepatitis, shingles and other viral infections.

It’s not an Messenger RNA vaccine like Pfizer or Moderna which instructs our cells to make the coronavirus spike protein, but rather it delivers the spike protein directly into the body, after being grown in the lab on a mammalian cell line. 

Novavax is also different from the viral vector AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson vaccines that work with adenoviruses and use a modified version of a virus (a vector) to also deliver genetic instructions to the body’s cells.

Data from two large studies showed the Nuvaxovid vaccine has an efficacy rate of around 90 percent.

READ ALSO: Nine under-the-radar Covid news stories from Spain you may have missed

Novavax stands out for being the first Covid-19 serum created from recombinant proteins against this virus, just like the so-called “Spanish vaccine” Hipra, which is in its final stages of trials.

One of the advantages Novavax offers is that it can be stored, handled and distributed at refrigerator temperature, between 2 and 8 degrees celsius.

According to the World Health Organisation, “it is impossible to compare vaccines head-to-head due to the different approaches taken in designing the respective studies, but overall, all of the vaccines that have achieved WHO Emergency Use Listing are highly effective in preventing severe disease and hospitalisation due to COVID-19”.

Although safe for the vast majority of the population, previous Covid-19 vaccines have been linked to very rare but potentially severe side effects, including acute immune reactions, heart inflammation and blood clots.

As the Novavax vaccine contains a protein found on the surface of Covid-19 virus, the patient’s immune system immediately produces natural defences, both antibodies and T cells. Therefore when faced with any possible future exposure to the virus, the body could immediately recognise its entry and generate the same antibodies.

READ ALSO: How many people in Spain have died after getting the Covid-19 vaccine?

As for Novavax’s side effects, those recognized by the EMA are “generally mild or moderate and disappear a couple of days after vaccination”.

The most common complications do not differ too much from those known of the other available serums: fatigue, muscle, joint or headache pain, discomfort in the injection area and sometimes nausea or vomiting.

Although protein vaccines are not yet being used widely across the world, data from clinical trials look promising so far, reflecting strong protection with fewer side-effect cases in general.

The biggest problem Novavax vaccine faces currently is one of supply, with only a fraction of the 2 billion doses promised to nations around the world delivered so far in 2022 and delays in shipments to the EU hampering the rollout. 

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Spain set to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to over-80s

As Spain prepares to remove masks in most indoor public spaces, health authorities are planning to soon offer a second Covid-19 booster dose to people over 80 and those in care homes.

Spain set to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to over-80s

According to a report by Spain’s Vaccine Committee published on April 18th, Spanish health authorities will most probably start to offer a second booster dose to over-80s and care home residents in early May 2022.

Until now, the fourth dose has only been made available to around 120,000 people in Spain classified as vulnerable, including people with cancer, HIV patients, those who have had a transplant or are receiving dialysis.

The decision, which still has to be finalised by Spain’s Health Ministry, comes as the national government prepares to scrap the rule on April 20th which requires mask wearing in indoor spaces.  

READ MORE: Where will you still need to wear a mask indoors in Spain?

On April 6th, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) backed a second booster dose for over-80s, but added that it was “too early to consider using a fourth dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer’s Comirnaty and Moderna’s Spikevax) in the general population”.

Around 50 percent of Spain’s population has had a Covid-19 booster dose (less potent than the inital two-dose vaccination), but the rates are lower among younger people.

The Spanish government has changed its stance towards the pandemic in recent weeks, essentially treating Covid-19 like another endemic disease similar to the flu, and focusing its efforts on reducing infections in high-risk groups rather than among the general population as whole.

Sánchez’s administration has decided to stop counting and reporting on each and every case,  removed quarantines for asymptomatic and mild cases, and after a long wait, relaxed indoor mask wearing rules (in force from April 20th). 

Other countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy and France have already started offering an extra booster dose to its elderly population and those with weakened immune systems.

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