The new generation vaccine has built-in insurance against the evolving COVID virus.
The jab created by Moderna – and Pfizer is not far behind with its own version – still triggers an immune response against the original Wuhan version of the virus. But it also provides protection against the Omicron family of variants that have become so dominant this year.
The so called bivalent – or twin target – vaccine is the first to be approved by the UK medical regulator.
Clinical studies have shown that it is safe and generates a much higher antibody response to Omicron.
The existing vaccine is less effective against the variant – it still provides good protection against death and hospitalisation, but does not prevent people from becoming infected, especially a few months after being stung.
Omicron will likely remain dominant this fall and winter, so it makes sense to update the jab to try and reduce the infection level in the population.
But why continue to add genetic material from the original 2020 virus if it has virtually disappeared?
That’s because the health authorities ensure their efforts.
The pandemic has shown us that the virus is unpredictable. A new variant more closely resembling the Wuhan strain may appear out of the blue. And the original virus caused many more deaths.
Combining protection against multiple viruses is the proven approach already used in flu vaccines.
That shot contains elements from three or, more commonly, four different strains of flu in the hope that it will protect people in the coming months.
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Moderna is new COVID jab still needs to be approved by the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Vaccination. The experts in the committee will decide whether the vaccine will replace the current Moderna booster.
Everyone over 50, younger people with some medical conditions, and health and care workers must have a refill this autumn.
Looks like they will get the updated jab.
Moderna has already agreed to supply the bivalent vaccine to EU countries this winter, if it gets the nod from European medical regulators.
JCVI is not always aligned with its EU counterpart, so it may choose to stick with the current vaccine.
Is this the only adjustment to the vaccine?
You wouldn’t bet on it.
The updated jab protects against a wider range of mutations in the virus. But COVID will continue to evolve and may by chance come up with something new that outwits our immune system.
Then it’s back to the drawing board.