Infectious Disease

CureVac says its COVID-19 vaccine was 47% effective in a variant-ridden study

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CureVac said its COVID-19 vaccine candidate was 47% effective against disease of any severity in a Phase 2b / 3 study “in the unprecedented context of at least 13 variants circulating in the study population”.

Sequencing performed during the HERALD study, which included 40,000 participants from 10 countries in Latin America and Europe, showed that wild-type SARS-CoV-2 was “almost entirely absent” from the infections, CureVac said in a press release.

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CureVac said its COVID-19 vaccine candidate was 47% effective against disease of any severity in a Phase 2b / 3 study “in the unprecedented context of at least 13 variants circulating in the study population”.
Source: Adobe Stock.

Like the approved COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the CureVac vaccine CVnCoV uses messenger RNA technology.

“While we were hoping for a stronger interim result, we recognize that demonstrating high efficacy in this unprecedented variety of variants is challenging,” said CureVac CEO Franz-Werner Haas, LLD, LLM, said in the publication.

The interim analysis included a total of 134 COVID-19 cases, 124 of which were sequenced to determine which strain of virus was responsible for the infection. Approximately 57% of the cases analyzed during the interim analysis were caused by worrying variants, with the remaining cases being caused by other variants, including Lambda or C.37 (21%) and B.1.621 (7%). Only one infection was caused by the original virus.

CureVac has sent its analysis to the European Medicines Agency and plans to move to a final analysis in the coming weeks.

“As we get closer to the final analysis with at least 80 additional cases, the overall effectiveness of the vaccine may change,” said Haas. “In addition, the diverse environment underscores the importance of developing next-generation vaccines as new virus variants keep emerging.”

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Amesh A. Adalja, MD)

Amesh A. Adalja, MD

It is important to get more information about the CureVac study. While people may be disappointed with the overall effectiveness numbers, it is really important to understand whether the vaccine was effective against the essentials – serious illness, hospitalization, or death. This vaccine uses different technologies than other mRNA vaccines to be stable at more achievable temperatures, and I wonder if this played a role in its lower than expected effectiveness (it also has lower mRNA per dose). The fact that this study was conducted in a situation where wild-type viruses were largely absent also plays a role in its effectiveness, and it will be important to understand how they compare with individual variants, including the lambda variant that we are familiar with need to behave more about. The vaccine can still be of value in preventing serious diseases.

Amesh A. Adalja, MD

Specialist in infectious diseases, bio-terrorism and emergency medicine

Senior Scholar, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security

Disclosure: Adalja does not report any relevant financial information.

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