The new booster will target the Omicron variant and original strain and is an updated version of the Moderna vaccine
The UK has become the first nation to approve a ‘next-generation’ Covid-19 booster shot, the first to target two strains of the virus.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved Moderna’s vaccine, which targets both the original Covid strain and the Omicron variant.
So what is the new vaccine, who is getting it and how does it work? Here’s what you need to know.
What is the new vaccine?
The dose known as mRNA-1273.214 is an updated version of the Moderna vaccine already in use for the first, second and booster doses.
It is a bivalent vaccine, meaning it works against two different antigens.
Moderna Chief Executive Officer Stephane Bancel described it as a “next-generation Covid-19 vaccine” which will play a “key role in protecting people in the UK from Covid-19” over the winter.
Mr Bancel said: “We are delighted with the MHRA’s approval of Spikevax Bivalent Original/Omicron, our next-generation Covid-19 vaccine.
“This represents the first approval of an Omicron-containing bivalent vaccine, further demonstrating the commitment and leadership of the UK public health authorities in bringing the Covid-19 pandemic to a close.
“This bivalent vaccine plays an important role in protecting people in the UK from Covid-19 as we enter the winter months.”
How does it work?
In each dose of the booster vaccine known as ‘Spikevax bivalent Original/Omicron’, half of the vaccine (25 micrograms) targets the original 2020 strain of the virus and the other half (25 micrograms) targets Omicron.
Moderna’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Paul Burton previously said the new vaccine can boost a person’s antibodies to levels so high that it may only be needed annually.
The MHRA’s decision to authorize its use is based on data from a clinical study that showed that a booster dose of the Moderna bivalent vaccine elicited a strong immune response against both Omicron (BA.1) and the original 2020 strain .
In an exploratory analysis, it was found that the bivalent vaccine also generated a good immune response against the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.
Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chairman of the Human Medicines Commission, an independent body sponsored by the DHSC to advise ministers on the safety, efficacy and quality of medicines, said the vaccine was safe to use.
Prof Pirmohamed said: “The Commission on Medicinal Products for Human Use and its Expert Working Group on Covid-19 Vaccines have independently reviewed the safety, quality and efficacy data and agrees with the MHRA’s decision.”
What are the side effects?
The MHRA said the vaccine’s side effects are the same as the original Moderna booster dose and were typically mild.
The Chairman of the Board, Dr. June Raine, described the new booster as “a sharpened tool in our armory” to help protect the UK from Covid-19.
Who gets the vaccine?
It has now been approved for adult use in the UK.
Moderna said it has also completed its applications for regulatory approval of the booster in Australia, Canada and the EU.