The next generation of COVID-19 vaccines is here, with the U.K. becoming the first country to hand out a jab specifically designed for newer strains of the coronavirus.
U.K. regulators approved Moderna's new COVID booster on Monday, opening the door for a new round of vaccines meant to protect specifically against the Omicron variant.
The new Moderna vaccine, known as a bivalent vaccine, is a booster that targets both the original virus and its more recent Omicron BA.1 mutation, reported the BBC.
The vaccine was approved after “it was found to meet the UK regulator’s standards of safety, quality and effectiveness” and is based on data collected from clinical trials, according to a press release by the U.K. government website.
Moderna is producing the new and improved vaccine, and doses will start being distributed in the next couple of weeks, although it hasn’t been determined who will receive them first.
Half of the bivalent vaccine doses will target the original strain of the virus, while the other half will target Omicron, said the press release.
Clinical trials conducted with the bivalent vaccine show that “a booster with the bivalent Moderna vaccine triggers a strong immune response against both Omicron (BA.1) and the original 2020 strain,” per the government release.
While the new booster targets the BA.1 subvariant, it does offer an increased immune response against the BA.4 and BA.5 strains dominant right now.
The first-generation vaccines are still useful, but the new one is a "sharpened tool in our armoury," said Dr. June Raine, head of Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.
Side effects of the bivalent vaccine are identical to the original Moderna vaccine booster doses, reported the New York Times.
Moderna first reported success with the new vaccine in July. They say trials involving 437 people showed that the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine were similar to that of the Moderna vaccines that were administered as second booster doses.
Pfizer has also reported success with an "Omicron-adapted" vaccine of its own, although it hasn't been rolled out yet.
Health Canada has a robust website with all the latest information on COVID-19 vaccines and can answer any questions you may have.