Britain has become the first country to approve a Codiv-19 vaccine that targets both the original and Omicron variant of the virus.
Medicines regulator MHRA approved the so-called bivalent vaccine made by US drug company Moderna as a booster for adults.
The agency’s decision was based on clinical trial data that showed the booster triggered “a strong immune response” against both Omicron (BA.1) and the original 2020 virus, it said.
The MHRA also cited an exploratory analysis in which the shot was also found to generate a good immune response against the currently dominant Omicron offshoots BA.4 and BA.5.
“The first generation of Covid-19 vaccines being used in the UK continue to provide important protection against the disease and save lives,” MHRA chief executive June Raine said in a statement.
“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.”
Asked what role community pharmacists will play in administering the bivalent vaccine, Department of Health and Social Care said: “NHS England will provide operational details on the rollout in due course.”
Health secretary Steve Barclay said:“I have accepted the independent advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on which vaccines should be offered in this autumn’s booster programme. This includes a Moderna bivalent vaccine which will target two different variants – the Omicron and original strain of Covid.
“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.
“Our vaccine rollout to date has been world leading – it has already saved countless lives and reduced the pressure on the NHS.
“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.”