Govt OK’s Novavax COVID-19 vaccine

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The health ministry on Tuesday approved a novel coronavirus vaccine developed by U.S. biopharmaceutical firm Novavax Inc., making it the fourth COVID-19 vaccine available in the country.

People aged 18 or over are expected to receive the vaccine free of charge for the first and second shots, as well as for the third, or booster, shots. The formal approval came after a panel of experts under the ministry gave its go-ahead to the Novavax vaccine on Monday.

A separate ministry panel will discuss whether the Novavax vaccine can be used for mix-and-match inoculations, or for people who were previously given COVID-19 vaccines developed by other firms.

The Novavax vaccine, unlike the three already-approved ones, is a recombinant protein vaccine. In clinical trials conducted outside Japan, it has been confirmed to be about 90% effective in preventing infections after the second shot.

According to the ministry, the vaccine is also effective against the highly infectious omicron variant to a certain extent.

Expecting that the Novavax vaccine will be administered to people including those who are allergic to the vaccines from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna, Inc., the government will distribute 100,000 doses of the vaccine from late May, health minister Shigeyuki Goto said at a press conference Tuesday.