After approving bivalent vaccine, UK says people must take any Covid-19 shot offered

Britain will start providing another round of Covid-19 booster shots to about 26 million patients from September. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - British health authorities said people should take whatever Covid-19 booster shot is offered to them this fall, even as the country became the first in the world to approve a new two-strain vaccine.

Britain will start providing another round of Covid-19 booster shots to about 26 million patients - aged 50 or above or those with weak immunity - from September in a bid to bolster defences against further waves of Covid-19 infections this winter.

Patients could receive a vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech, or Moderna's original or bivalent shot, which specifically targets the Omicron variant and was only approved by the British drugs regulator on Monday (Aug 15).

In exceptional circumstances when no alternative is available, eligible patients may receive Novavax's adjuvanted vaccine, the UK's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said in a statement on Monday.

"All of the available booster vaccines offer very good protection against severe illness from Covid-19," said Dr Lim Wei Shen, who heads up the committee's Covid-19 vaccination program. "It is important that everyone who is eligible takes up a booster this autumn, whichever vaccine is on offer."

Britain's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency on Monday became the first in the world to clear Moderna's updated vaccine which targets both Covid-19's original strain and a version of the subvariant Omicron.

While studies show Moderna's Omicron-targeted shot produces a higher immune response against some variants, compared to its original version, the clinical relevance of these small differences is still uncertain, the UK's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said in the statement.

The British government said they intend to use Moderna's bivalent shot throughout the fall booster campaign but declined to offer details on how many doses are ready for deployment.

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