New COVID-19 booster targeting Omicron, original variants approved in UK


British drug regulators have become the first in the world to license an updated version of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine that aims to protect against both the original virus and the omicron variant.

In a statement Monday, the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency said it had given the green light to Moderna’s “bivalent” combination vaccine, to be used as a booster shot for adults.

Each dose of the booster vaccine will target both the original COVID-19 virus that was first detected in 2020 and the omicron BA.1 variant that was first detected in November. British regulators said the side effects were similar to those seen with Moderna’s original booster injection and were generally “mild and resolved on their own”.

“What this (combination) vaccine gives us is a sharp tool in our arsenal to help protect against this disease as the virus continues to evolve,” said Dr. June Raine, director of the Greater Healthcare and Medicines Regulator. Brittany.

This approach is used with flu vaccines, which are adjusted each year based on circulating variants and can protect against four strains of influenza.

Stephane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, said in a statement that it was the first regulatory authorization for a vaccine aimed at combating the omicron variant, predicting that the booster would have an “important role” to play in protecting people against COVID-19. 19 in the winter. .

Health officials in Britain have not yet decided whether or not the modified vaccine will be used in their autumn strategy. In July, the government said everyone over the age of 50 would get a COVID booster in the fall.

On Friday, Germany’s health minister said the modified COVID-19 boosters could be approved by the European Medicines Agency as early as next month.

In June, the US Food and Drug Administration told vaccine manufacturers that any modified booster vaccine for the fall would have to include protection against the newer variants of omicron, namely BA.4 and BA. 5, not the BA.1 subvariant included in Moderna’s latest vaccine. Shooting.

Last month, the FDA said it was no longer considering authorizing a second COVID-19 booster for all adults, but instead would focus on renewed vaccines for the fall that target newer viral sub-variants.

Both Moderna and Pfizer are making updated versions of their vaccine to include BA.5 in addition to the original COVID-19 virus.

According to the World Health Organization, the latest global surge of COVID-19 has been driven by the omicron BA.5 subvariant, which is responsible for approximately 70% of virus samples shared with the largest public virus database. biggest of the world. The BA.5 subvariant is even more infectious than the original version of omicron and has some genetic differences that previous vaccines might not address.

Scientists have warned that the continuing genetic evolution of COVID-19 means drugmakers will likely be one step behind the virus in their efforts to tailor their vaccines.

“The virus is unlikely to stop and Omicron-driven immunity could push the virus down other evolutionary paths,” said Jonathan Ball, professor of virology at Britain’s University of Nottingham. Still, he said the new Moderna vaccine would likely still be protective.

“Unless there is a major change in the virus, immunity will continue to protect the vast majority of serious illnesses caused by emerging variants,” he said in a statement.

AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard in Washington, DC contributed

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