Since the vaccines began to be developed and distributed, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed its course. Before we only had the distancing measures to avoid spreading the virus and provisional treatments for those who contracted it, but with vaccines we added a powerful layer to face it.
We have already heard of vaccines like BioNtech-Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Sinovac, among many others. But soon we will also hear about a new one that has been created by the French pharmaceutical company Valneva, which is entering this field with a different vaccine.
But what is it that makes the Valneva vaccine different? Instead of inducing an immune response that targets only the coronavirus spike protein, what the Valneva vaccine (called VLA2001) does is stimulate an immune response to the entire virus, which could give it an advantage over the others vaccines.
It is different because it uses the tried and tested method of taking all of the coronavirus and inactivating it so that it cannot cause disease, and then it is combined with an adjuvant – a substance that helps it enter human cells effectively.
This is a technique similar to that used to make flu and polio vaccines. So the idea is that by introducing the entire coronavirus into the human body (but one that has been inactivated and cannot cause disease), the immune system recognizes the entire virus as something foreign and not just the spike proteins.
This will give a much broader immune response and will increase the memory cells of the immune system, which are capable of recognizing different parts of the virus in case the vaccinated individual becomes infected with the real coronavirus.
According to the company behind the vaccine, the advantage of this is that if mutations arise in the spike protein, rendering the virus unrecognizable to the vaccine, the immune response induced by Valneva will be broad enough to recognize other parts of the virus, so the immune reaction will remain effective.
Phase three trials for the Valneva vaccine were carried out in more than 4,000 patients aged 18 years and over at 26 locations within the UK. In these, the immune response rates were compared with those of those vaccinated with AstraZeneca, and the results showed that VLA2001 generated a stronger immune response than the other mentioned vaccine (with higher levels of COVID-19 neutralizing antibodies in the blood). .
The researchers also found no severe cases of COVID-19 among the participants who received the Valneva vaccine, even though the Delta variant was in circulation during the trial.
Lead Investigator Professor Adam Finn, University of Bristol, said in a press release that the results were “impressive and extremely encouraging,” adding that they “suggest that this candidate vaccine is on track to play an important role in overcoming the pandemic.”
With the changing nature of the virus, it is important to invest in vaccines that do not depend on a single part of its structure to generate protection. The Delta variant has shown that mutations are not a game, and considering that there are still unvaccinated regions of the world, there is a greater chance that new variants will emerge.
Regarding the current status of the Valneva vaccine, today it was announced that the European Commission has approved the eighth contract with the French company with a view to purchasing its potential vaccine against COVID-19.
According to him release, the contract with Valneva will provide the possibility for the Member States of the European Union to purchase almost 27 million doses in 2022. It also includes the possibility to adapt the vaccine to new variant strains and for the Member States to place an additional order of up to 33 million additional vaccines in 2023.
The Valneva contract adds to a broad already secured portfolio of vaccines to be produced in Europe, including contracts already signed with AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, BioNtech-Pfizer, CureVac, Moderna and Novavax.