Novavax adamant its COVID shot will reach vaccine hesitant in Europe but wary of war's impact

Initial uptake of Novavax’s newly launched COVID vaccine Nuvaxovid in Europe has been weak, but the company is still adamant the shot can reach the so-called vaccine hesitant across the continent.

Numbers out last week for the shot’s trajectory made grim reading for the U.S. biopharma: Data from the Robert Koch Institute showed that only a tiny fraction of the shots delivered were being taken up in countries including Germany and Italy.

The company has delivered about 47 million doses with around 55 million more doses expected in the near term, but analysts at Jefferies, writing in a note to clients last week, found that only around 100,000 doses have been administered so far, “which could suggest limited real-world adoption.”

Novavax believes it can still make the $4 billion to $5 billion in sales it has guided from Nuvaxovid and can make the shot work in Europe. “With nearly 30% of the European Union still unvaccinated against COVID-19, we believe there is a significant need for a protein-based vaccine option in Europe, and we are excited about the progress that is underway in vaccination with Nuvaxovid,” a company spokesperson told Fierce Pharma Marketing.

But there was a note of caution, with the spokesperson adding that it “expects the environment to remain dynamic given Europe’s proximity to the war in Ukraine.” The ongoing war could cause disruptions to the overall supply chain on the continent while also diverting attention away from the need for COVID vaccines as Europeans focus more on the ongoing war.

This is an issue highlighted earlier this month by The Harris Poll, which found pharma’s reputation has been dropping over the past three months as the public moves away from the emergency mode of COVID and focuses more on the war and the effects of inflation.

The company's shot, Nuvaxovid—which works using older protein-based vaccine technology that you’d see in flu shots—was approved in Europe at the end of last year.

Novavax has set itself up as a “new option” for the vaccine hesitant who may not want the current crop of mRNA shots from Pfizer and Moderna.

“We believe that offering a protein-based vaccine will play a role in driving vaccination among those who have been hesitant to get vaccinated with other options,” the company added. Novavax is already running a new unbranded education campaign designed to explain its overall vaccine technology and help guide people toward its vaccine.  

It is also gearing up for an FDA advisory committee for its shot, which should be coming in the next few weeks, as it looks for an authorization on its native soil.