The anti-Covid vaccine developed by the French company Sanofi has been available in pharmacies since Thursday, more than two years after those of its competitors.
The Sanofi vaccine is finally available, Thursday, December 22, after more than two years of development and multiple adventures. Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it is not a messenger RNA vaccine, but a recombinant protein one. The High Authority for Health (HAS) authorized its use at the beginning of December for those over 18 but specifies that it is to be used “in second intention” and “maintains its recommendation to preferentially use mRNA vaccines”. Franceinfo tells you everything you need to know about this vaccine.
An alternative to messenger RNA vaccines
baptized VidPrevtyn Beta, this is the first anti-Covid-19 vaccine developed by a French company: the Sanofi laboratory, in partnership with the British pharmaceutical company GSK. Particularity of this vaccine : unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, it does not use messenger RNA technology but uses so-called recombinant protein technology.
This technology takes its name from the Spike protein, present on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2. This needle-shaped protein is essential for the virus to cross the cell membrane and enter the body. The vaccine replicates this Spike protein to trigger the production of antibodies and thus teach the body to neutralize the Spike protein in the event of contamination by the real virus.
As China emerges from its “zero Covid” strategy and epidemiologists fear the appearance of new variants, the development of new vaccines using a different technology could be an asset in the fight against the pandemic: a greater variety of vaccines allows to immunize the population against more variants. “It is therefore necessary to have several solutions throughout this pandemic”said Thursday Charles Wolf, general manager of vaccines at Sanofi, in an interview with the Parisian (article for subscribers).
Proven effectiveness for reminders
“According to the first data, our recall would be as effective as those of Pfizer and Moderna”, says Charles Wolf in the same interview. HAS gave the green light to Sanofi on the 8 December for the marketing of its vaccine. A favorable opinion which is limited for the moment to the use as a reminder and in adults over 18 years old. The HAS recommends it “in second intention”for the “people reluctant to mRNA vaccines and those who have a contraindication”.
Use from the first dose could “to be considered if similar efficacy data on the Omicron variant sublines, compared to the vaccines currently used in France, were provided”, explains the HAS press release. For the moment, it is indeed necessary to have received two doses of a vaccine authorized as a primary injection, such as Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca to receive a dose of the vaccine developed by Sanofi as a booster dose.
This authorization could allow people reluctant to these vaccines to protect themselves. The HAS considers for its part that “the needs for vaccines that can be used in primary vaccination in people who do not wish or cannot benefit from mRNA vaccines are already covered in France at present.” It is indeed possible to receive the vaccine developed by the AstraZeneca laboratory in the first dose. This is also a vaccine that uses an inactivated virus and does not use mRNA technology.
A long development and behind its competitors
The VidPrevtyn Beta experienced slow development and above all a mid-term failure which caused the pharmaceutical company to waste a lot of time. At the origin of this delay, a dosage error in the composition of the treatment, due to reagents of insufficient quality. The VidPrevtyn Beta thus arrives on the market more than two years after the first vaccination carried out with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, on December 8, 2020.
“For the population, it may not be fast enough; for us, it is a scientific feat” all the same considers Charles Wolf in The Parisian. “We managed to develop this reminder in two years, against ten normally”, he argues. A faster than normal development indeed, but much slower than for its competitors. The alliance of the American giant Pfizer and the German start-up BioNTech took only 10 months to develop its mRNA vaccine.
A multi-billion global market
If the vaccine developed by Sanofi arrives too late for the initial vaccination campaign, it is timely for the 4th dose. The vaccination campaign for the second booster is still timid: only 45% of people over 70 have a second booster injection. Among 60-64 year olds, it is even less, only 30%, according to data available on the Public Health France site.
Sanofi intends to capture this market and be the vaccine favored by the French for their second booster dose. “More than 70 million doses have been purchased by Europe”, says Charles Wolf. The stakes are high for the French pharmaceutical laboratory, which must cover its development costs, but also finance its latest investment of more than one billion euros: a center near Lyon devoted to research on messenger RNA vaccines. “Our goal: to develop six messenger RNA vaccines by 2030 against influenza, bronchiolitis, chlamydia infection, and even against acne!”explains the general manager at Sanofi to the Parisian.
The market for mRNA vaccines can indeed pay off big. In 2021, Pfizer doubled its net profit compared to 2020, largely thanks to the Covid vaccine. With 2.3 billion doses sold worldwide, the pharmaceutical giant had generated 18.5 billion in profit in the first nine months of 2021.
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