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 to start dual-strain Covid boosters in October

The long-awaited second booster shots will be rolled in Switzerland from October 10th, the Health Ministry announced on Friday.

Switzerland to start dual-strain Covid boosters in October

Less than two weeks after drug regulator Swissmedic approved the new version of the Moderna vaccine, which should better target certain sub-variants of Omicron, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) said on Friday the shots will be available to some groups of the population from October 10th.

“The vaccination recommendation for autumn 2022 aims primarily to protect vulnerable people against a severe form of the disease. On the one hand, people aged 65 or over, and on the other hand, those aged 16 to 64 with an increased risk, for example due to a pre-existing disease or pregnancy”; FOPH said in a statement on Friday.

After that, those “aged 16 to 64, without risk factors and who work in acute and long-term care, or who care for vulnerable people in a professional or private capacity” will be eligible for the shots, FOPH said.Health officials noted that while the number of Covid infection is currently “relatively low, an increase in transmissions of the virus is expected from the fall of 2022. The risk of contracting Covid-19 and the burden for the health system could therefore increase again”.

It added, however, that “the situation differs markedly from that of the last two winters; currently, 97 percent of the population have antibodies against Covid following vaccination or recovery. “People without risk factors are unlikely to develop severe symptoms this fall”.

Dual-strain vaccine

In recent trials, the new Moderna vaccine demonstrated “higher antibody concentrations against the Omicron variants” than the manufacturer’s original Covid vaccine, Swissmedic said.

The previous vaccine was effective against early strains, like Alpha and Delta, offering no immunity against Omicron or its sub-variants, which are currently responsible for all the coronavirus infections detected in Switzerland.

“Compared to the original vaccine, trials have shown that this [vaccine] produces a stronger immune response against the Omicron variants BA.1 and BA.4/5″, Swissmedic said, adding that the new vaccine remains as effective as its predecessor against the original Covid viruses.

Additionally, “a careful review of the application documents submitted on an ongoing basis showed that the vaccine meets the safety, efficacy and quality requirements », the agency noted.

Also, in terms of secondary effects, they are expected to be “similar” to those following administration of the second dose and the first the booster of the original vaccine: fever, muscle pains, and headaches.

According to FOPH, “the bivalent mRNA vaccines, which are tailored to the Omicron BA.1 variant, should be preferred for booster vaccination. However, it is still possible to use the current monovalent mRNA vaccine”.

Additionally, protein-based Nuvaxovid doses will also be available.

READ MORE: BREAKING: Switzerland approves new Covid-19 boosters