Moderna’s bivalent jab, which combines both the original Wuhan strain with a version tailored for omicron, was authorised for use in the UK on Monday, making Britain the first country in the world to approve a variant-specific Covid vaccine.
However, while Moderna has already stockpiled “hundreds of millions” of doses of its new formulation it is understood the UK’s current order will fall short of the 26 million figure unless a new deal is struck.
The UK was scheduled to receive 29 million doses from Moderna this year, with several million still to arrive. The remainder of the order is set to be fulfilled with the updated vaccine.
Darius Hughes, the UK general manager at Moderna, told The Telegraph the doses were ready to be shipped, and would be sent to the UK in the coming weeks.
The Telegraph has learnt that Pfizer’s bivalent omicron-targeting booster, currently under review for authorisation by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), is expected to gain authorisation in the coming weeks.
Data from Pfizer, released in June, shows the jab “elicits a substantially higher immune response against omicron than we’ve seen to date”.
The MHRA said it could not provide a timeline for approval but claimed it was “rigorously reviewing Pfizer’s data and analysis in the shortest time possible using our review process”.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised that a single form of vaccine should be used throughout the renewed rollout, and the preference for this is thought to be the bivalent jabs. However, it added that getting a booster as soon as possible was more important than which version a person receives.
Prof Anthony Harnden, the deputy chairman of the JCVI, told BBC Breakfast: “The whole basis of the programme is to target those vulnerable people for a booster to keep their immunity topped up for protection against severe disease.
“So the message really is get vaccinated with your booster and don’t worry too much about the type of vaccine that you’re getting.”