January 24, 2022

Novavax’s covid vaccine arrives in France: how is it different from Pfizer and Moderna?

Nuvaxovid, Novavax’s vaccine against covid, has just been validated in France.

After the vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen, a fifth vaccine will join the panoply of prevention against covid in France. In an opinion issued on January 14, 2022, the High Authority for Health (HAS) expressed itself in favor of the Novavax vaccine – called Nuvaxovid. It comes to expand the paraphernalia, alongside a reinforcement of the Janssen vaccine.

Novavax, new vaccine against covid


While Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines are based on messenger RNA biotechnology, Novavax’s is ‘classic’. It is based on the recombinant protein technique. Like the vaccines against hepatitis B or whooping cough (which have been used since the second half of the 20th century without any problem), the formula mobilizes proteins which reproduce the Spike protein of the coronavirus, and which are associated with an adjuvant . ” These two components will promote the immune response of B and T lymphocytes against the Spike protein, and stimulate the production of neutralizing antibodies. “recalls the HAS.

The HAS insists on its recommendation to favor messenger RNA vaccines, with proven efficacy and immunogenicity. But as these products are perceived as new, they sometimes create reluctance. In fact, the HAS considers that a classic vaccine like Novavax is a good option to give the choice. The Novavax vaccine can therefore be used as a primary vaccination for anyone over 18.

The injection is, like other vaccines, intramuscular. It is a simple injection in the upper arm.

Novavax vaccine. // Source: Unplash/Piero Nigro (cropped photo)

Vaccination schedule

The vaccination schedule is based on 2 doses, spaced 3 weeks apart. (see second part of the article for the rules of primary vaccination)

Side effects

As for side effects, they are mild, short-term, and similar to those of other vaccines: sensitivity and slight pain at the injection site, headaches, slight discomfort.

Efficiency from Novavax

Clinical trials have revealed good efficacy: 90.4% against symptomatic forms, and 100% against severe forms of the disease. The phase 3 study was based on 26,000 participants, at 119 sites across the United States and Mexico. However, the efficacy has not yet been quantified against the Delta and Omicron variants, since they were not in circulation as much during the study.


It can be stored between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius, in the refrigerator, away from light, for a maximum of 6 months. Once the vial is opened, it is viable for up to six hours at room temperature (up to 25 degrees).

Primary vaccination methods with Novavax and Janssen

In its opinion issued on January 14, 2022, the HAS also asks to rehabilitate the Janssen vaccine (with a “non-replicating viral vector”, that is to say with a harmless adenovirus modified with the protein of the coronavirus) in primary vaccination and modifying the vaccination schedule.

In fact, from the arrival of Novavax in France, new modalities will be available in primary vaccination, in addition to the usual schemes with Pfizer and Moderna.

People aged 55 and over who have not yet been vaccinated can be vaccinated:

  • Either with the Janssen vaccine in a primary vaccination schedule with 2 doses spaced two months apart,
  • Either with the Nuvaxovid® vaccine from Novavax according to a primary vaccination schedule with 2 doses spaced three weeks apart.

People under 55 who are not yet vaccinated can be vaccinated with:

  • The Novavax vaccine exclusively, according to a vaccination schedule of 2 doses spaced three weeks apart,
  • On an exceptional basis only, that is to say in the event of unavailability of Novavax and a desire not to opt for Pfizer or Moderna, the Janssen vaccine may also be useful, after a discussion with a doctor (the Janssen vaccine is less well tolerated by people under 55).

People over 18 who have received a dose of vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna, etc.) and who refuse a second dose of the same vaccine:

  • It will be possible to complete the scheme with a second Novavax dose.