Vaccines Are Back: Moderna Boasts About Its New 'Upgraded' COVID Jab

By Seth Cutler | Tuesday, 16 August 2022 21:45
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Britain is the first country to pass a COVID-19 vaccine that targets both the original and Omicron variant of the virus.

The U.K. medicines regulator (MHRA) passed the so-called bivalent vaccine made by U.S. drug company Moderna as a booster for adults.

The agency's decision was based on clinical trial data that showed the booster initiated "a strong immune response" against both Omicron (BA.1) and the original 2020 virus, it stressed.

The MHRA also mentioned an exploratory analysis in which the jab was revealed to prompt a good immune response against the currently dominant omicron offshoots BA.4 and BA.5.

No serious safety concerns were identified with this new vaccine, the agency added.

Now, approval has been garnered, Britain's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will advise on how the vaccine should be deployed in the country.

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While existing COVID-19 vaccines deliver good protection against hospitalization and death, vaccine effectiveness has taken a hit as the virus has developed.

"The first generation of COVID-19 vaccines being used in the U.K. continue to provide important protection against the disease and save lives," MHRA Chief Executive June Raine said in a statement.

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"What this bivalent vaccine gives us is a sharpened tool in our armory to help protect us against this disease as the virus continues to evolve."

European Medicines Agency (EMA) officials expect COVID variant-adapted vaccines to be passed in the European Union by September, and have informed the regulator is ready to use shots targeting the older BA.1 variant this autumn, given those specifically targeting newer subvariants are further behind in clinical development.

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In contrast, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said it will seek the specific inclusion of the newer BA.4 and BA.5 offshoots of omicron in any new shots used domestically.

Besides Moderna, partners Pfizer Inc and BioNTech have also been testing versions of their mRNA vaccine altered to combat omicron variants.

Meanwhile, Sanofi and partner GSK are working on a protein-based vaccine that targets the beta subvariant, which dominated for some time last year.

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In June, the US Food and Drug Administration told vaccine-makers that any booster shots tweaked for the fall would have to include protection against the newest Omicron variants, meaning BA.4 and BA.5, not the BA.1 subvariant included in Moderna’s latest shot.

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Last month, the FDA said it was no longer thinking of permitting a second COVID-19 booster for all adults, but would instead focus on revamped vaccines for the autumn that target the newest viral subvariants.

Both Moderna and Pfizer are currently preparing updated versions of their vaccine to include BA.5, in addition to the original COVID-19 virus.

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