The pharmaceutical company Hipra delivered the first doses of its covid vaccine to the Ministry of Health on April 28. Spain, which has acquired 3.2 million doses, will be the first country where the Hipra vaccine, marketed as Bimervax, is distributed.
Who will receive these doses?
the EMA [Agencia Europea de Medicamentos] has approved the vaccine as a booster dose for people over 16 years of age who have previously received at least one dose of covid messenger RNA. In Spain, it is the responsibility of the Vaccine Report of the Ministry of Health to indicate whether it is recommended for the entire population over 16 years of age or for a specific subgroup.
If the Vaccine Conference has not ruled, does it mean that the Hipra vaccine cannot yet be inoculated in Spain?
It has been received by participants in clinical trials. But the doses that we began distributing on April 28 have not yet begun to be administered.
If a person has been vaccinated with mRNA, is there any advantage to switching to the Hipra vaccine in the next booster dose?
The results of clinical trials show that the efficacy of our vaccine is equivalent to that of Comirnaty [la de Pfizer-BioNTech]. And it has the advantage of being less reactogenic.
I am referring to the immediate effects of the vaccine such as pain in the puncture area, a feeling of tiredness the next day, headache, which are not serious but are annoying. Having a less reactogenic vaccine is important for those who may be reluctant to receive a booster dose because they have felt unwell after receiving a mRNA vaccine.
Several countries have expressed interest in acquiring doses for the fall”
How do you know that it has an efficacy equivalent to the Pfizer vaccine?
In clinical trials we have compared the amount of neutralizing antibodies a person creates when receiving a booster dose of Bimervax [la de Hipra] and when he receives it from Comirnaty [la de Pfizer-BioNTech].
With what results?
The level of neutralizing antibodies 14 days after the booster dose is similar with the two vaccines. We have also found that even if a person contracts covid after being vaccinated, which is something that can happen with all vaccines, the protection of our vaccine against severe forms of disease is maintained for at least six months. On the other hand, our vaccine has advantages for healthcare professionals compared to messenger RNA vaccines.
It reaches health centers without the need for any type of manipulation. And it is also kept at refrigerator temperature, without the need for freezing at ultra-low temperatures such as those for messenger RNA, which facilitates logistics when distributing the vaccine to the points where it will be administered.
Hipra’s vaccine is based on the fragment of the S protein of the virus that mutates the most and not on the entire S protein like those of other companies. Are you afraid that this will affect the efficacy of your vaccine against future variants?
Our vaccine has generated an adequate level of neutralizing antibodies against all variants we have tested, including some of the recent omicron variants. Therefore, it offers a broad spectrum of protection against multiple variants. Of course, as the virus evolves, we and other companies will need to check that our vaccines continue to offer a high level of protection. But we are no more worried about ourselves than the others may be.
Are you worried about arriving at a time when the vaccine market is already saturated and the motivation of citizens to get vaccinated has diminished?
Of course we care. But we are convinced that the European authorities will not allow decisions that were made in a context of pandemic [en referencia al compromiso de compra de cantidades masivas de la vacuna de Pfizer-BioNTech] block the entry of new generation vaccines that provide benefits. The way to live with the coronavirus is to be well immunized. Our vaccine would make it possible to maintain good immunity in people who do not want to receive more doses of messenger RNA.
In which countries, apart from Spain, do you plan to distribute the vaccine?
Several European countries have expressed interest in acquiring doses for autumn. We have had a meeting in Brussels in April and representatives of all but one of the countries have come. If they hadn’t been interested, they wouldn’t have come. They are waiting to see how the renegotiation of the European contract with Pfizer turns out.
And outside of Europe?
We had to wait for the vaccine to be approved in Europe to apply for registration in other countries. We are already working on it. We are in talks with the UK and with countries in Latin America and Asia.
It’s important for people who may be reluctant to get a booster dose.”
What cost has the development of the vaccine had for Hipra?
These are data that we do not make public, but I can tell you that it is the project that has required the most financial effort in the company’s history.
Has it been financed with public funds?
We have done it mostly with our own resources. As public financing we have received two contributions from the Ministry of Science and Innovation amounting to 17.9 million. Of this amount, 12.8 million are loans that we have to repay within the stipulated terms. The other 5.1 are grants.
Do you expect to recover the investment?
Of course we hope to get it back. It is what will allow us to invest in more projects in the future. What we do not know is how long it will take to recover it.
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