Omicron: GP explains ‘overwhelming’ science behind vaccines
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In a major win for Britain, the UK medicines regulator (MHRA) has approved the so-called bivalent vaccine made by US drug company Moderna as a jab for adults. It’s the first country to give the Covid booster jab the green light. The vaccine, which targets both the original and Omicron strain, was found to meet MHRA’s exacting standards of safety, quality and effectiveness. Reassuringly, the health body says that the vaccine’s side effects are the same as those seen in the original Moderna booster dose and were typically mild.
The agency’s decision was based on clinical trial data that showed the booster triggered “a strong immune response” against both Omicron (BA.1) and the original 2020 virus, it said.
The MHRA also cited an exploratory analysis in which the shot was also found to generate a good immune response against the currently dominant Omicron offshoots BA.4 and BA.5.
“The first generation of COVID-19 vaccines being used in the UK continue to provide important protection against the disease and save lives,” MHRA Chief Executive June Raine said in a statement.
“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.”
Omicron jab: UK approves new Covid vaccine targeting Omicron strain (Image: Getty Images)
The Government’s independent science advisory body the Commission on Human Medicines also approved the jab.
Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, Chair of the Commission on Human Medicines said: “The Commission on Human Medicines and its COVID-19 Vaccines Expert Working Group has independently reviewed the data on safety, quality and effectiveness and agrees with the MHRA’s decision.”
The booster dose, also known as “Spikevax bivalent Original/Omicron”, contains 25 micrograms of Omicron vaccine and 25 micrograms of original coronavirus vaccine.
A vaccine that works for two infections is known as bivalent.
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The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation will advise on how the vaccine should be rolled out.
The dose is an updated version of the Moderna vaccine which is already in use for first, second and booster doses, and it will be the first dose approved in the UK which targets two strains of the virus.
Moderna’s chief medical officer, Doctor Paul Burton, previously said that the new jab can boost a person’s antibodies to such high levels that it may only be needed annually.
Stephane Bancel, chief executive officer at Moderna, described it as a “next generation COVID-19 vaccine” which will play an “important role in protecting people in the UK from COVID-19” over the winter.
Bivalent vaccine: The jab is an updated version of the Moderna vaccine which is already in use (Image: Getty Images)
Mr Bancel said: “We are delighted with the MHRA’s authorisation of Spikevax Bivalent Original/Omicron, our next generation COVID-19 vaccine.
“This represents the first authorisation of an Omicron-containing bivalent vaccine, further highlighting the dedication and leadership of the UK public health authorities in helping to end the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This bivalent vaccine has an important role to play in protecting people in the UK from COVID-19 as we enter the winter months.”
Mr Bancel added that the jab has “consistently shown superior breadth of immune response” over alternatives in clinical trials.
The major development comes on the heels of a recent publication of a paper on COVID-19 vaccines in the Lancet journal .
The research paper suggested that COVID-19 vaccines have prevented up to 20 million deaths in the first year of use.
The researchers of the paper concluded: “COVID-19 vaccination has substantially altered the course of the pandemic, saving tens of millions of lives globally.”
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