THE FIRST Covid vaccine that targets the Omicron variant has been approved by UK drug regulators.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has given the green light to use the jab as a booster shot.
Made by Moderna, half the vaccine targets the original coronavirus strain, and the other half targets Omicron.
Omicron has been dominant in the UK since December 2021.
There have been various strains of the super-infectious bug, including BA.1 (December/January) and BA.2 (spring).
Currently BA.4 and BA.5 are dominant, causing some 4,000 cases per day.
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The MHRA said that a clinical trial showed that a booster with the bivalent Moderna vaccine triggered a strong immune response against both Omicron (BA.1) and the original 2020 strain.
In an exploratory analysis the bivalent vaccine was also found to generate a good immune response against the Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.
The boosters until this point have offered protection against severe illness and death against Omicron, but not so much infection.
Data from the Government showed a booster shot was 95 per cent effective against Omicron death.
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But against infection, effectiveness was 63-70 per cent, and significantly less after only two doses.
Fortunately, studies have suggested that Omicron itself is a more mild strain and people have suffered more cold-like illness when infected.
Dr June Raine, MHRA Chief Executive said: “I am pleased to announce the approval of the Moderna bivalent booster vaccine.
“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.
“We have in place a comprehensive safety surveillance strategy for monitoring the safety of all UK-approved Covid-19 vaccines and this will include the vaccine approved today.”
Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed said that the Commission on Human Medicines, which he chairs, "independently reviewed the data on safety, quality and effectiveness and agrees with the MHRA’s decision".
“The virus, SARS-CoV-2, is continually evolving in order to evade the immunity provided by vaccines," he said.
“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.”
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Now that the vaccine has been given drug regulator approval, experts will decide who gets it and when.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will advise on how this vaccine should be offered, and will consider aspects such as extra protection from Covid over the winter.
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