Moderna’s Omicron COVID-19 booster is here. Here’s what you need to know.

A new Omicron-specific version of the Moderna (a.k.a bivalent Moderna) vaccine is now available to the Australian public. 

Who is eligible?

Last month, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommended this as a booster shot for adults 18 years of age and over. This is the first bivalent COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Australia. This bivalent vaccine triggers an immune response against two different COVID-19 variants: the original virus and the BA.1 Omicron variant. 

The vaccine should be administered at least 3 months after a primary series and/or previous booster dose with SPIKEVAX or other authorised COVID-19 vaccines, in accordance with official recommendations. 

It’s not yet been approved for under-18s, nor is it to be used as a “primary dose” vaccine (one of the first two doses in most people or first three doses in severely immunocompromised people).

The Moderna bivalent vaccine will be integrated into the existing COVID-19 booster program and all sites participating in the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out program will have access to this vaccine in coming weeks,” said a spokesman Department of Health in conversation with SBS.

People who are due for a COVID-19 dose are encouraged not to wait and to book an appointment as soon as possible, using whichever vaccine is available to them.

What’s new about the bivalent Moderna booster?

Like the original Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, the bivalent booster is also an mRNA vaccine.

It contains genetic blueprints that, when injected into our muscle, prompt our body to construct replicas of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

Where the first Moderna vaccine only contained spike protein blueprints for the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, the new combination booster also includes blueprints for the Omicron BA.1 subvariant spike. 

Why does the bivalent Moderna include mRNA for the original virus at all?

It’s because scientists and researchers don’t know what the virus will do next. It will almost certainly evolve into another variant, but older ones might make a comeback, so having broader protection is a way of pre-empting future potential infections.

What do we know about the bivalent Moderna’s efficacy? 

Preliminary results from Moderna’s trials showed what ATAGI called “a small incremental benefit” in an immune response against Omicron subvariants BA.1, BA.4 and BA.5.

In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, around 800 triple-vaccinated people received either a fourth dose of the original Moderna vaccine or the new combination booster. The result of the study showed the “bivalent omicron-containing vaccine elicited neutralizing antibody responses against omicron that were superior to those with the original moderna vaccine, without evident safety concerns.”.

The combination shot also gave recipients higher antibody levels against the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, especially if they’d been infected with COVID previously.

It’s also important to note that we already know the original Moderna vaccine provides protection against severe disease against Omicron subvariants, and ATAGI recommends “people who are due for a COVID-19 dose book an appointment, using whichever vaccine is available to them”.

Available at Heathershaw’s

Heathershaw’s offers Bivalent Moderna Booster vaccine appointments. Book online now.

Opinions or facts expressed within the content have been sourced from various news sources. While every effort has been taken to source them accurately, the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates do not take any responsibility for errors in these sources. Patients should not rely on the facts or opinions in the content to manage their own health, and should seek the advice of an appropriate medical professional. Further, the opinions or facts in the content do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates.

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