Switzerland approves first protein-based Covid vaccine

Switzerland's medical regulator Swissmedic this week authorised its first protein-based Covid vaccine- the Nuvaxovid vaccine - for people aged 18 and over in the country.

Novavax vaccine vials. Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP
Novavax vaccine vials. Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

This is the fourth vaccine against Covid-19 approved in Switzerland after the shots from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson were approved in late 2020 and 2021.

Nuvaxovid is from manufacturer Novavax. It is a protein-based vaccine, unlike the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna and the viral vector vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, the regulator said.

It has a non-infectious component from the surface of the coronavirus. When the person’s immune cells come into contact with it, it triggers a protective immune response.

READ ALSO: Booster 2.0: Is Switzerland gearing up for a fourth Covid jab?

According to the documentation assessed by the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products, the level of protection seven days after the second dose of the vaccine is approximately 90 per cent.

The Swiss government had pre-ordered one million doses of the new vaccine, with an option for five million more.

What is an inactivated vaccine?

The Nuvaxovid vaccine is the first ‘inactivated vaccine’ to be approved by the European Union.

Inactivated vaccines are the most well-known type of vaccine and have been used for centuries.

They contain dead particles of a disease or pathogen. Because the particles are dead, the recipient will generate antibodies to the disease but will not contract it.

Inactivated vaccines are known as Totimpfstoff (dead vaccine) in German and virus inactivé in French.

READ ALSO: Switzerland to remove all Covid measures on Friday

The three vaccines administered in Switzerland – Moderna, Pfizer/Biontech and Johnson and Johnson – all use different technology, Moderna and Pfizer/BioNtech are mRNA-based and were the first vaccines to use this technology in mass production. Johnson & Johnson is a vector vaccine.

Instead of carrying an inactivated (or dead) part of the virus, like the Novavax vaccines does, so that the immune system can learn what it looks like to fight it, the three newer vaccines carry instructions (either via mRNA, in the case of Moderna and Pfizer, or DNA codes, like the J&J vaccine). The instructions are to direct our cells and promote an immune reaction.

While the technologies used have been proven to be safe, authorities believe some vaccine holdouts have indicated a reluctance to embrace newer technologies. These people would prefer to receive a Covid vaccine using technology that has been shown to be safe for centuries.

There has been no significant increase in vaccine acceptance in Austria and Germany, though, where the Nuvaxovid vaccine has been administered for weeks.

READ ALSO: Why is German-speaking Europe lagging on Covid vaccines?

Switzerland has seen a drop in the number of new infections and lower hospitalisation rates since last month. However, just under 70 per cent of its population is fully-vaccinated, with 42.78 per cent of Swiss having taken a third dose (booster) of a Covid vaccine.

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Switzerland authorises Moderna vaccine for children over six

Children between the ages of six and 11 will now be able to get a Moderna shot, Swiss health authority said.

Switzerland authorises Moderna vaccine for children over six

Until now only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved in Switzerland for this group, starting at age five.

However, on Friday the country’s drug regulatory body, Swissmedic, gave the green light to start administering Moderna’s vaccine to children over six, who will receive two half doses of 50 micrograms at an interval of four weeks.

Those over 12 and adults are injected the full dose.

The agency said that based on clinical studies, young kids react to the Moderna vaccine much like older children and adults do.

“The most commonly reported side effects such as pain, redness or swelling at the injection site, fatigue, headache, shivering or nausea, were similar to those in adolescents and young adults”. Swissmedic said.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about Covid vaccines for children in Switzerland

Also, “fever occurred more frequently in children, whereas muscle and joint pains were seen less often than in adolescents or adults. The undesirable effects were generally mild to moderate and lasted for a few days”.

While some parents may be reluctant to vaccinate their children against the coronavirus, health officials say the vaccines are safe. They also argue that in order to achieve herd immunity, all age groups should have their shots.

While the number of Covid infections has dropped significantly in Switzerland in the past two months, epidemiologists are predicting a new outbreak in the fall and winter, when cooler weather drives more people indoors, where the yet-unknown variants will be more transmissible.

READ MORE: How can I get my children vaccinated against Covid in Switzerland?