Explained: How Valneva vaccine works against Covid-19, and how effectively

VLA2001 is an inactivated, adjuvanted vaccine meaning it delivers the whole Sars-CoV-2 virus in an inactivated form. The virus is killed using chemicals, heat, or radiation. The dead virus cannot infect us but can still trigger an immune response.

Valneva SE, a French vaccine company, announced on Monday results from its Phase 3 trial of its inactivated Covid-19 vaccine candidate, VLA2001. They said that the vaccine was as effective as the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

Type of vaccine

VLA2001 is an inactivated, adjuvanted vaccine. This means that it delivers the whole Sars-CoV-2 virus in an inactivated form. The virus is killed using chemicals, heat, or radiation. The dead virus cannot infect us but can still trigger an immune response.

Adam Finn, Professor of Paediatrics, University of Bristol, TrialChief Investigator, said in a release: “This is a much more traditional approach to vaccine manufacture than the vaccines so far deployed in the UK, Europe, and North America and these results suggest this vaccine candidate is on track to play an important role in overcoming the pandemic.”

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Polio and flu vaccines are common examples of inactivated vaccines. India’s Covaxin is also an inactivated vaccine.

Currently, none of the vaccines in the UK – Moderna, Oxford/AstraZeneca, – are inactivated vaccines. Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech are mRNA vaccines. They contain the code of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and once inside the body teach our body to produce the spike protein. Our immune system recognises this and initiates an immune response against Covid-19. Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine delivers the code of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein using a carrier – another virus called adenovirus.

The Guardian reported that the Valneva jab is stable when stored in a standard refrigerator, making it easier to distribute than the Covid vaccines, which require shipping and storage at ultra-low temperatures.

Efficacy

The phase 3 study, named ‘Cov-Compare’, involved 4,012 participants over the age of 18 years. The trial was conducted at 26 sites across the U.K.

2,972 participants over the age of 30 were randomly assigned into two groups and received two doses of either the Valneva or the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. Another set of 1,040 participants, 18 to 29 years old, received two doses of the Valneva vaccine 28 days apart.

The results showed that two weeks after vaccination, in adults aged 30 and older, the vaccine was able to trigger high levels of neutralising antibodies compared to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. The team notes that the vaccine was able to induce broad T-cell responses.

The participants who received the Valneva vaccine reported lower levels of adverse effects compared to the group given the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. “Less than 1% reported an adverse event of special interest,” adds the release.

Thomas Lingelbach, Chief Executive Officer of Valneva, told reporters that the company will soon submit the data to the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and potential initial approval is expected by the end of this year.

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