Novavax trial data sparks misinformation
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Novavax trial data sparks misinformation

Yesterday, drugmaker Novavax said in a press release that Phase 3 data from a trial conducted in the US and Mexico shows its vaccine has 100 per cent efficacy against moderate and severe Covid-19, with an overall efficacy of 90.4 per cent. But news about the encouraging trial data from another US-made Covid-19 vaccine has prompted misinformation.

Some anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists responded to the trial data by repeating the false narrative that spike proteins — the mechanism by which the Novavax and other vaccines produce an immune response — are harmful. “Novavax injection just dumps millions of spike proteins right into your body. Can’t wait to see all the myocarditis from that,” reads a tweet from Dr. Jane Ruby, who describes herself as a medical expert and who recently amplified the false claim that Covid-19 vaccines induce magnetism. 

Other reactions drew on misinformed comparisons to other vaccines. Experts have discouraged comparing trial data because of the differences in how efficacy and safety trials were conducted, and the fact that all of the approved vaccines in the US are considered highly effective. One post on 4chan’s /pol subforum read, “The Novavax one does not use mRNA and only injects the spike protein in isolation instead of needing the mRNA to replicate it so it [sic] there was a gun to my head, that is what I would take” in another example of misinformation about spike proteins. 

On Facebook, radio talk show host Kim Iversen, who identifies as a “independent-minded rational progressive” and has over 23,000 followers, amplified false claims about spike proteins but also favorably compared the Novavax vaccine to other vaccines already in use, falsely suggesting that other approved shots may cause infertility. Several medical institutions have stressed that Covid-19 vaccines do not cause infertility. Iversen advised her followers to defer receiving other vaccines, and then to “wait a few months to see how it goes” regarding the Novavax vaccine. 

Novavax’s chief executive told The Washington Post that the company’s vaccine may be available globally before it is rolled out in the US, and that much of the company’s supply will be used by the World Health Organization’s Covax program. — Keenan Chen

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