UK approves Covid booster vaccine targeting two variants

UK regulators on Monday approved the country’s first Covid-19 booster vaccine, targeting two coronavirus variants, the original virus and the Omicron variant.

Half of each dose of the vaccine, or 25 micrograms, targets the original variant and the other half targets Omicron. In clinical trials, the vaccine, an updated version of Moderna’s original Covid vaccine, elicited a good immune response to both of these variants, as well as subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 in adults, researchers found.

dr June Raine, chief executive of the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, said she was pleased that the new booster vaccine met the regulator’s safety, quality and efficacy standards. The decision was endorsed by Britain’s independent scientific expert body, the Commission for Medicinal Products for Human Use.

“The first generation of Covid-19 vaccines being used in the UK continues to provide important protection against the disease and save lives,” said Dr. Raine. “What this bivalent vaccine gives us is a sharpened tool in our arsenal to protect us from this disease as the virus continues to evolve.”

Side effects were the same as Moderna’s original booster dose and were generally mild, with no serious safety concerns, UK regulators said.

The emergence of highly contagious Omicron subvariants this spring appears to be reducing the protection of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines against Covid hospitalizations, as more vaccinates were hospitalized with Covid than during the winter Omicron surge. But booster shots have boosted people’s levels of protection, scientists at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last month. The CDC recommends that people get booster shots as soon as they are eligible.

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