Covid vaccines: Novavax roll-out begins in France

Thousands of Novavax Covid vaccines began arriving in France this week and will be available from March. Here's what you need to know about the shots.

A scientist conducts tests on a batch of Novavax vaccines. France will receive its first shipment of these vaccines during the week.
A scientist conducts tests on a batch of Novavax vaccines. France will receive its first shipment of these vaccines during the week. (Photo by Karen Ducey / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

France has ordered 3.2 million Covid vaccine doses from the American pharmaceutical company Novavax for the first quarter of 2022 – and may order a further 3.2 million for the second. 

The first shipments, amounting to 1.14 million doses began arriving in the country this week. Of this first delivery, some 600,000 doses will be immediately sent to France’s overseas territories, where vaccination rates are generally lower. 

The Health Ministry told Ouest France that vaccination with these vaccines will begin in the first week of March. 

What makes this vaccine different?

The Novavax vaccine is what is known as a ‘protein sub-unit’ vaccine.

This means it works differently to viral vector vaccines made by AstraZeneca and Jansses or mRNA vaccines made by Pfzier and Moderna.

Protein sub-unit vaccines works by injecting a piece of the virus – in this case, the spike protein – into the patient.

The patient’s immune system then learns to recognise spike proteins which allows better protection against Covid in the future. 

In a statement given to Le Figaro, the health ministry said the fact that this vaccine works differently to the others may be enough to convince vaccine sceptics to get their shots. 

“Its particular technology could mean that it is orientated towards reticent people or those who cannot be vaccinated via an mRNA vaccine,” it said.   

The European Medicines Agency has recommended its use for anyone over the age of 18, but not for children. 

How will it be administered? 

The vaccine has only been authorised in France for the initial two vaccinations – not the booster shot for people already vaccinated with another vaccine. French authorities say this is because of a lack of research into the use of Novavax as a booster. 

It will only be available to people over the age of 18 and administered through vaccine centres, pharmacies and doctors from March.

The exact start date is still to be confirmed.

How effective is it? 

Clinical trials have shown the Novavax vaccine, technically known as Nuvaxovid, to be 90 percent effective in preventing symptomatic Covid and 100 percent effective in preventing serious illness. 

The Canadian health ministry also released preliminary data that suggests it is effective in producing Omicron-neutralising antibodies. 

Novavax declared at the start of the month that the vaccine was 80 percent effective in treating people aged between 12-17. 

The Haute autorité de santé, an advisory body to the French government on health policy, has said that mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) should still be given as a priority, judging them to be more effective. 

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France extends second Covid vaccine boosters to over 60s

The French government has announced an extension of the second booster programme for the Covid vaccine to over 60s, as well as those with a medical condition.

France extends second Covid vaccine boosters to over 60s

Previously offered only to over 80s and those with a medical condition, the programme will now be extended to those aged 60 and over, health minister Olivier Véran announced on Thursday, reaching an extra 500,000 people.

He told RTL: “We are opening the second booster to people aged 60 and over, six months after their first booster.”

The change comes into effect immediately, although the second booster shot can only be given once six months has passed since the first booster.

As ever, there is no need to wait for an invitation, if you fit the criteria you can book your appointment directly with a pharmacy, GP or vaccine centre.

A second booster is entirely voluntary, and will not be required to keep ‘fully vaccinated’ status for those in the eligible groups.

Those who qualify for the second booster shot are now

  • Anyone aged 60 and over
  • Anyone under the age of 60 who has a chronic or severe illness including cancer patients, those with a compromised immune system and people living with chronic conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure or a respiratory condition. Find the full list here.

EXPLAINED Who qualifies for a second Covid vaccine booster shot?

The Haute Autorité de Santé, France’s medical regulator, considers that extending second boosters to the entire population is not “relevant” at this stage.