Nurses could be offered a new vaccine which targets two strains of coronavirus, after it was approved by health officials today.
The UK is the first country to approve the new dual-strain vaccine, made by Moderna, which targets both the original Covid-19 virus strain and the newer Omicron variant.
“This safe and effective vaccine will broaden immunity and potentially improve protections against some variants as we learn to live with this virus”
The updated version of the vaccine was approved for adult booster doses by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) today, after it was found to meet safety, quality and effectiveness standards.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has subsequently advised it be used in the upcoming autumn booster vaccination programme.
In each dose of the booster vaccine, called Spikevax bivalent Original/Omicron, half of the vaccine (25 micrograms) targets the original virus strain from 2020 and the other half (25 micrograms) targets Omicron.
The MRHA’s decision to approve the vaccine is based on data from a recent clinical trial of 437 people, which showed that it triggers a strong immune response against both Omicron (BA.1) and the original 2020 strain.
The vaccine was also found to generate a good immune response against the Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5, an exploratory analysis revealed.
Dr June Raine, MHRA Chief Executive said: “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.”
According to the trial, side effects observed from this new vaccine were the same as those seen for the original Moderna booster dose and were typically mild and self-resolving.
No serious safety concerns were identified.
Dr Raine added that there is a “comprehensive” safety surveillance strategy in place which monitors the safety of all UK-approved Covid-19 vaccines, including the vaccine approved today.
Meanwhile, health and social care secretary Steve Barclay confirmed he has accepted subseqent advice from the JCVI to include the Moderna bivalent vaccine in the autumn booster rollout.
“Vaccines remain our best defence against Covid, and this safe and effective vaccine will broaden immunity and potentially improve protections against some variants as we learn to live with this virus,” he said.
Mr Barclay added: “We will begin to contact those eligible from early September, and I would urge people to come forward as soon as they are invited so together we can keep each safe and protect our NHS.”
The announcement follows confirmation that frontline health and social care workers, including nurses, will be eligible for a Covid-19 booster vaccination this autumn.
Other eligible groups for the autumn booster include: people aged 50 and over, residents and staff in care homes for older adults, unpaid carers, individuals aged five to 49 in clinical risk groups, and household contacts of those who are immunosuppressed.