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The Spike Protein Vaccine (Novavax)

What is Novavax?

Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine, otherwise known as NVX-CoV2373, is a spike protein COVID-19 vaccine. It is also called a subunit vaccine meaning it is a vaccine that contains purified parts of a pathogen that will elicit a protective immune response. In SARS-COV-2 there are 29 spike proteins attached to its membrane and these are the ones of interest. [fig.1] 

How is Novavax created?

The way the vaccine works is by isolating genetic material of a single spike and having that injected into a baculovirus. This newly modified baculovirus containing the spike protein is then taken to infect a moth cell. Within the moth cell the baculovirus replicates, creating more of itself along with these spike proteins, which are then isolated and used for vaccines. [fig.2]




Visual representation of Novavax creation [fig.2]

How the Novavax vaccine works

Other vaccines use either DNA or RNA (mRNA) technology to trigger the immune response, meaning it sends a messenger telling our cells to produce covid-like spike cells which elicit an immune response. However, using a subunit vaccine triggers the immune response in a much safer way by directly introducing the protein into the body. Our body recognizes this protein as foreign, causing an immune response. Once the protein is destroyed, our bodies have memory cells that remain in our blood in case our body encounters the protein again, thus preventing future infections. A compound from a soapbark tree is used as an adjuvant, however, Novavax have been testing a different adjuvant called Matrix-M.

Where is Novavax at now?

Novavax has completed Phase 3 testing and is ending with strong results. It is shown to have a 100% efficacy against the original COVID-19 strain and 93% efficacy against other variants. The vaccine’s overall efficacy was 90.4% against mild disease and 100% against

severe disease. Side effects include pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, and muscle pain lasting less than three days. The vaccine has been tested on people from all three generations (grandparents, parents, children) during clinical trials. As of 12 February 2022, a virologist in Australia has received her first dose of Novavax and further clinical trials demonstrated an 82% efficacy against the Delta variant, while also preventing cases in the pediatric population.


Baculovirus: A family of viruses that serve as natural hosts.

Adjuvant: Enhances the body’s immune response

Written By Marwin Banluelap (Year 11 Student at Bangkok Patana School)



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