A New COVID Vaccine Called Corbevax Could Help Vaccinate the World

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Key Takeaways

  • Corbevax is a COVID-19 vaccine that’s easy for other countries to make.
  • The vaccine is also inexpensive, allowing low-income countries better access to vaccination.
  • The vaccine has already been authorized for use in India.

A new vaccine developed by researchers in Texas may help vaccinate people against COVID-19 around the world. Why? It’s cheap to make and easy to distribute.

The vaccine, called Corbevax, was just granted an emergency use authorization in India, and the researchers behind the vaccine hope that it will be used as an affordable option in other countries with lower vaccination rates. 

“The researchers are giving up their intellectual property rights to make the means to do this available to all countries and, most importantly, to low-income and middle-income countries,” Thomas Russo, MD, professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo in New York, told Verywell. “They’re basically giving out the recipe to allow the vaccine to be made inexpensively. It’s a very cool thing and can be critical to getting more people in the world vaccinated against COVID-19.”

The vaccine has been in the works since 2011, as a partnership between vaccine co-developers Maria Elena Bottazzi, PhD, associate dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, and Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, professor and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor and co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development.

The two originally worked to develop a vaccine for SARS, another coronavirus, Bottazzi told Verywell.

“All that information we had previously gathered came in really handy when we found out this pandemic was caused by a similar coronavirus,” she said. “It enabled us to develop the vaccine fairly quickly.”

How Does Corbevax Work?

Corbevax uses protein subunit technology, which means it uses proteins from a virus (in this case, COVID-19) to produce an immune response from people without making them sick.

“It uses more conventional technology,” Bottazzi said, pointing out that the technology behind her vaccine is similar to that of some hepatitis B vaccines.

Two phase III clinical trials of Corbevax of more than 3,000 people found that the vaccine is safe and well-tolerated in patients. The vaccine was found to be more than 90% effective against preventing infection from the original COVID-19 strain and more than 80% preventative against symptomatic infection against the Delta variant.

The vaccine also had 50% fewer side effects than the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, Covishield.

What This Means For You

Corbevax makes COVID-19 vaccination more widely available to people around the world, especially for people in low-income countries that have had difficulty getting vaccines. Higher global vaccination rates should ultimately help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and the development of new variants.

Why Is the Corbevax Vaccine Getting So Much Attention?

The way that the vaccine is created makes it easier for companies around the world to produce it, Bottazzi said.

“That gives us the advantage that we can have a lot of doses for use,” she said. “In India, for example, they can make 100 million doses. The scalability by other vaccine manufacturers is almost limitless.”

Protein-based vaccines also have a long safety track record, Bottazzi said, and tend to have very “mild” side effects, if any. “It can be a good alternative for those who are nervous about receiving the mRNA vaccine,” she pointed out.

This type of vaccine also can create a “very robust and durable response,” Bottazzi said.

The low cost of the vaccine is a huge perk, too. While Bottazzi said she and Hotez “don’t know the details of the specifics of cost,” it should be inexpensive to make. (Hotez has estimated that it will cost between $1 and $1.50 a dose.)

“That will help increase access and raise the currently unacceptable global vaccination rates,” Richard Marlink, MD, director of Rutgers Global Health Institute, told Verywell.

Having a vaccine that is created from more traditional technology “also means it’s easier to distribute,” Marlink said. “You don’t need the ultra-low temperatures that the mRNA vaccines need. ... The lower cost and easier distribution make this a great breakthrough.”

Russo agrees. “This is absolutely critical,” he said. “We need to vaccinate the world in order to tamp down on infections, and this can help accomplish that goal.”

Bottazzi stresses that it’s imperative for more people to get vaccinated around the world.

“If we don’t really start distributing, delivering, and having people use more vaccines in areas where there’s very little coverage, we will never be able to avoid this virus mutating,” she said. “If more people were vaccinated earlier, we could have avoided Omicron and Delta.”

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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