The UK has just made a world-first move, approving a dual COVID-19 vaccine tackling both the original virus strain and the newer Omicron variant, according to an announcement from the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Known as a “bivalent” vaccine, half of the Moderna-made booster shot (25 micrograms) targets the original 2020 virus strain, and the other half (25 micrograms) targets the Omicron variant.
The approval comes after trials showed the bivalent vaccine generated a strong immune response against the original SARS-CoV-2 strain, plus Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 – two subvariants that have recently become the dominant variants in circulation worldwide.
The data also indicates the bivalent vaccine is just as safe as the original Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, with side effects typically being mild and self-resolving.
“The virus, SARS-CoV-2, is continually evolving in order to evade the immunity provided by vaccines. This novel bivalent vaccine represents the next step in the development of vaccines to combat the virus, with its ability to lead to a broader immune response than the original vaccine,” Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, Chair of the Commission on Human Medicines, said in a statement.
Now the vaccine has received the green light from the MHRA, the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will decide whether the bivalent vaccine will be rolled out in the country’s vaccine program ahead of the coming winter.
“The first generation of COVID-19 vaccines being used in the UK continue to provide important protection against the disease and save lives. What this bivalent vaccine gives us is a sharpened tool in our armoury to help protect us against this disease as the virus continues to evolve,” added Dr June Raine, MHRA Chief Executive.