Around 26 million people will be eligible for a “next generation” Covid-19 vaccine as the nation prepares for the roll-out of the autumn booster programme.
The UK has became the first nation to approve the new Covid-19 booster jab, which will target two strains of the virus simultaneously.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced it has authorised Moderna’s bivalent vaccine, which targets both the original Covid strain and the Omicron variant.
Known as mRNA-1273.214, the dose is an updated version of the Moderna vaccine which is already in use for first, second and booster doses.
The government has said that it is “confident” that people will be able to get the new bivalent Covid-19 jab as part of the autumn booster programme.
Moderna’s chief medical officer, Dr 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.
He added that the jab has “consistently shown superior breadth of immune response” over alternatives in clinical trials.
The MHRA said that the vaccine’s side effects are the same as those seen in the original Moderna booster dose and were typically mild.
Its chief executive, Dr June Raine, described the new booster as “a sharpened tool in our armoury” to protect the UK against Covid-19.
Dr Raine said: “I am pleased to announce the approval of the Moderna bivalent booster vaccine, which was found in the clinical trial to provide a strong immune response against the Omicron BA.1 variant as well as the original 2020 strain.
“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.”
Who is eligible for the new vaccine?
The government has said it’s “confident” the new jab will be used in the autumn vaccine rollout.
Those in ‘older age groups’, residents in care homes for older adults, frontline health and social care workers, and those with certain underlying health conditions receive a booster vaccine ahead of the winter period.
‘Older age groups’ is most likely to mean over 75s, like the spring vaccine rollout, although this detail is to be confirmed.
The latest update from the UK Health Security Agency suggests both the old and new Moderna jabs, the Pfizer-BioNTech booster and the Nuvaxovid vaccine may be used in the Autumn programme.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, Chair of COVID-19 immunisation on theJoint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said: “All of the available booster vaccines offer very good protection against severe illness from Covid-19. As more vaccines continue to be developed and approved, the JCVI will consider the benefits of including them in the UK programme.
“It is important that everyone who is eligible takes up a booster this autumn, whichever vaccine is on offer. This will increase your protection against being severely ill from COVID-19 as we move into winter.”