UK becomes world’s first country to approve vaccine against both Omicron & original COVID strain

The ‘bivalent’ vaccine has been made by US drugmaker Moderna. Notably, in early 2020, the UK became the first country to roll out a COVID vaccination drive

Representational image. AFP

New Delhi: The UK on Monday became the world’s first country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine for both the Omicron variant and the original coronavirus strain.

The ‘bivalent’ vaccine has been made by US drugmaker Moderna.

“An updated version of the COVID-19 vaccine made by Moderna that targets two coronavirus variants (known as a “bivalent” vaccine) has been approved for adult booster doses by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) after it was found to meet the UK regulator’s standards of safety, quality and effectiveness,” the UK government in a press release said.

The Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said in a statement said it had approved the vaccine for adult booster doses “after it was found to meet the UK regulator’s standards of safety, quality and effectiveness”.

The MHRA’s chief executive June Raine said data from a clinical trial had shown it prompted a “strong immune response” against the original virus and Omicron and would provide a “sharpened tool in our armoury” as the virus kept evolving.

Moderna’s CEO Stephane Bancel said in a statement that the US biotech company was “delighted” by the decision, “the first authorization of an Omicron-containing bivalent vaccine”.

While vaccines have helped lower hospitalisations and deaths from Covid, which first emerged in China in late 2019, the current jabs are mainly aimed at the earlier strains of the disease.

The World Health Organization warned in July that the pandemic was “nowhere near over”, due to the spread of Omicron subvariants and to the lifting of control measures.

What is a bivalent vaccine?

The UK health regulator said the vaccine was also found to generate a “good response” against two Omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, which have partly driven a wave of new cases of the disease in Europe and the United States.

The vaccine had the same “typically mild” side effects as the original Moderna jab, it added.

Moderna said in June that its “bivalent” vaccine performed better against both Omicron and the original virus compared to its original Covid vaccine, called Spikevax.

The EU’s medicines watchdog said that it had started to review the new shot.

Moderna said it had also submitted the vaccine to regulators in Australia and Canada and was expecting further authorisation decisions in the coming weeks.

Notably, in early 2020, the UK became the first country to roll out a COVID vaccination drive.

With inputs from agencies

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