Next generation vaccines are a step closer in Australia after the nation’s Therapeutic Goods Administration granted provisional approval to Moderna’s bivalent original/Omicron booster for adults aged 18 and over.
Australia is now one of four nations to grant provisional approval for the vaccine along with Canada, the UK and Switzerland.
Moderna’s product is ‘bivalent’, meaning it produces an immune response to two different strains, in this case the original and Omicron BA.1 variant.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) still needs to provide advice on the vaccine’s administration to the public before jabs can go into arms.
“Ultimately, we’re starting to get into the phase of actually getting more of the actual vaccines catching up with the variants,” Professor Bruce Thompson, head of Melbourne University’s school of health sciences says.
“We were relying on the vaccines that were associated with Delta and the original strain, they sort of worked, but not as well.
“Now actually catching up with, a vaccine that actually has Omicron in it.”
While the Omicron BA.1 subvariant has died down within the population in favour of new and emerging strains of the disease, it should provide recipients with a better calibrated immune response to recognise future Omicron subvariants.
Over time, experts envision a seasonal vaccine cycle similar to influenza, where laboratories around the world trace and prepare inoculations to target whichever strain they expect to be in vogue.
Data from Moderna’s clinical trial for the bivalent booster found an eight-fold increase in Omicron-neutralising antibodies over a baseline comparison. A good immune response was also observed in response to BA.4 and BA.5.
In a statement, Moderna confirmed it expects to supply the bivalent booster to Australia in September.
Matthew Agius is a science writer for Cosmos Magazine.
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