The EU’s approval of the first Covid-19 bivalent vaccine, which will cover the original strain of the coronavirus and the Omicron variant, is expected next month, associate professor of pharmacology and member of the vaccination advisory committee, Dr Christos Petrou said on Wednesday.
Petrou said once the approval is given, the vaccine could be delivered to Cyprus in the last quarter of 2022.
Britain at the weekend became the first country to approve the bivalent vaccine when the UK medicines regulator approved the shot made by US drug company Moderna as a booster for adults.
Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency on Wednesday, Petrou said the need and timing for such boosters would vary from country to country.
He said future vaccination strategies may also vary depending on the availability of updated vaccines, adding that countries may need to use different types for different strategies and population groups. This would also depend on the emergence of new variants.
Petrou emphasised how important it was to give the fourth shot as a booster to those over 60, and the vulnerable.
“People should not be complacent while waiting for the new vaccines, whenever they become available,” he said.
Referring to the bivalent vaccine, manufactured by Moderna as a booster, Petrou said this particular vaccine covers the original strain of the virus and the Omicron strain, while it appears to have satisfactory protection in “Omicron 4” and “Omicron 5”.
Asked about the approval of such a vaccine in Europe next month, Petrou said they could be available sometime in the last quarter of 2022, adding, however, that there are no clear timelines.
Ultimately, he said, the strategy followed with the annual flu vaccine may also be applied against the coronavirus.
The UK decision to approve the new Moderna shot was based on clinical trial data that showed the booster triggered “a strong immune response” against both Omicron (BA.1) and the original 2020 virus, it said.
The MHRA also cited an exploratory analysis in which the shot was also found to generate a good immune response against the currently dominant Omicron offshoots BA.4 and BA.5.
“The first generation of Covid-19 vaccines being used in the UK continue to provide important protection against the disease and save lives,” MHRA chief executive June Raine said in a statement.
“What this bivalent vaccine gives us is a sharpened tool in our armoury to help protect us against this disease as the virus continues to evolve.”