Front-line coronavirus workers could be vaccinated as soon as this year, Novavax CEO says

Health, Fitness & Food

Novorax CEO Stanley Erck attends a meeting with President Donald Trump, members of the Coronavirus Task Force and pharmaceutical executives in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Monday, March 2, 2020, in Washington.

Andrew Harnik | AP

Workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic will be first to receive a vaccine and that could come as soon as later this year, Stanley Erck, CEO of vaccine development company Novavax, said Tuesday. 

Novavax announced Monday that it has launched phase 1 clinical trials of its coronavirus vaccine candidate and it expects preliminary results in July. 

“I think everybody agrees that the first broad distribution will be to the front line workers, the health care workers,” he said on CNBC’s “Squawk Alley.” “If our phase two data support the safety and immunogenicity that we hope it will and we’re able to see a signal for efficacy, it’s possible that that first line would be vaccinated some time in the fourth quarter of this year.”

Novavax is among the latest companies to join the race for a coronavirus vaccine as the world’s largest drugmakers and biotech companies pause research into other diseases to accelerate development of a cure for Covid-19. The virus has infected more than 5.5 million people around the world since it emerged in Wuhan, China about six months ago. 

The space of companies vying to produce a successful vaccine is increasingly crowded. It includes large and small drugmakers and biotech companies, such as ModernaPfizer, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline and Merck.

Novavax has a long road to prove that its vaccine candidate is both safe for human use and actually effective in fighting the coronavirus. Erck said the phase one trial will confirm safety of the potential vaccine and the phase two trial will determine whether it’s effective.

Novavax, like other companies developing a vaccine candidate, has begun to ramp up its ability to manufacture its potential vaccine before it’s been approved to shave months off the delivery date, if it proves safe and effective, Erck said. 

“Our target for next year is quite ambitious, but we think doable, which is to produce over a billion doses of vaccine,” he said. “We’d like to do it in various continents. We’d like to do it in Europe, the U.S., perhaps India and in Asia. It’s an aggressive goal” 

Pricing on any potential vaccine remains unknown. Erck said his company plans to price its potential vaccine on a tiered approach based on affordability.

“There’s got to be broad distribution. There’s got to be equitable access,” he said. “There will certainly be tiered pricing depending upon affordability so that the vaccine can be used globally.”

Novavax announced earlier this month that the European nonprofit Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations will invest up to $384 million to accelerate development of the company’s potential vaccine.

“We do know that this is one of the largest opportunities or obligations to distribute vaccines globally. We’re talking billions of doses. It’s never been done before,” Erck said. “There’s lots of ways to go down this pathway none of which have been well defined yet. We’re only in this business for four months now.”

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