American pharmaceutical manufacturer Moderna has created a COVID-19 vaccine booster that targets the Omicron strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which has now been approved for use in the UK, Moderna said on Tuesday, 16 August.
Moderna's booster, named Spikevax Bivalent Original/Omicron Booster dose, or mRNA-1273.214, is one of many vaccines currently under development to target the Omicron strain of COVID-19. It was approved for use in adults in the UK.
The Omicron strain began spreading in late 2021, and became the fastest spreading variant of COVID-19.
When will the vaccine be rolled out? Will India have access? Here's everything you need to know about the state of vaccines to fight COVID-19's Omicron strain.
How does Moderna's vaccine work?
Moderna's new shot works on two fronts - one targets the original strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that emerged from Wuhan, China in 2019 along with its BA.1 subvariant, i.e., the original variant of Omicron.
On the second front, Spikevax will target the newer, more prevalent strains of Omicron, namely BA.4 and BA.5 which have been reported worldwide.
The biotech giant said that Spikevax will be the safest option for future booster doses, till new vaccines are created. This, they said, is because the virus keeps evolving and mutating and vaccine development will have trouble keeping up.
Moderna added that they've created another booster dose that only targets the more prevalent BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of Omicron, which has been ordered by the United States.
Will India get Moderna's COVID booster dose?
As of now, no mention has been made of India getting access to the Spikevax Bivalent booster. Moderna stated that it is hoping for authorization from Australia, Canada, and the European Union in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, the US has purchased 66 million doses of Moderna's second vaccine which targets only BA.4 and BA.5. The EU has also entered an agreement with Moderna for 15 million doses of the booster.
How effective is the Spikevax Bivalent booster dose? Is it safe?
Moderna's statement says that the booster triggered a substantial immune response to the original strains of COVID as well as the BA.1 variant, and a good response against the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants that are currently prevalent.
While these results were from laboratory studies, the manufacturer stated that it examined the presence of antibodies, in their trials. However, no data exists from human trials to show increased efficacy of this vaccine against Omicron, compared to existing vaccines.
The vaccine is as safe as their previous COVID vaccine, Moderna has said.
What other vaccines are being developed against Omicron?
At present, many other vaccines are under development. Pfizer has said it's developing a similar bivalent vaccine based on the original COVID strain, and that it has sought approval from the EU's drug regulatory authority for the same.
Serum Institute of India has also said that it's currently working on an Omicron-specific vaccine in a tie-up with Novovax, with a vaccine expected by the end of the year.
GSK and Sanofi are currently conducting trials on a booster that will target the Beta variant of COVID, which was recorded first in South Africa. Meanwhile, chinese manufacturers Sinovac and Sinopharm have stated that they're "updating" their vaccine to fight Omicron.
These booster formulations have not been authorized by drug regulatory bodies yet.
Meanwhile, some efforts are underway to develop a COVID vaccine that protects from other coronavirus infections like SARS and MERS as well.