HSA approves Moderna booster vaccine targeting original COVID strain, Omicron variant

A vial of the Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) booster vaccine.
A vial of the Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) booster vaccine. (PHOTO: Reuters)

SINGAPORE — The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) on Wednesday (14 September) gave interim approval for the use of a Moderna COVID-19 booster vaccine that targets the original novel coronavirus strain and an earlier Omicron variant.

The Moderna Spikevax bivalent vaccine comprises two components of 25 micrograms each that target the original SARS-CoV-2 strain and the Omicron BA.1 variant, HSA said in a media release. It is an updated version of the Modern vaccine based only on the former strain approved for use under the national vaccination programme.

The bivalent vaccine can be used in individuals aged 18 years and above, who have received their primary series vaccination shots.

The Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination and the Ministry of Health will issue their recommendations for the bivalent vaccine in due course.

HSA said it has examined the data from Moderna’s various studies and trials for the vaccine, and “assessed that the benefits outweighed the risks for use of the bivalent vaccine as a booster to protect against COVID-19 as the virus continues to evolve”.

Based on an ongoing Phase 2/3 trial conducted by Moderna, the bivalent vaccine has shown a strong immune response against the Omicron BA.1 variant, while preserving the immune response against the original COVID-19 strain.

“The preliminary data from an exploratory analysis also suggested that the vaccine may stimulate antibodies against Omicron BA.4/5, as well as other variants such as Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Gamma,” HSA said.

The adverse effects from a person receiving a bivalent vaccine shot are similar to that arising from the original Moderna vaccine, such as tenderness, fatigue, headache and muscle pain, and they usually diminish within a few days.

In a separate statement, Moderna said it is working with HSA and the government to make the vaccine available in Singapore later this month. The American pharmaceutical company said that its bivalent vaccines have been authorised for use in the US, Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the UK to date.

Other COVID-19 vaccines in Singapore

The original Moderna vaccine is one of two based on the messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) technology that have been approved for use under the vaccination programme – the other is produced by Pfizer-BioNTech.

Novavax’s Nuvaxovid is one of two non-mRNA shots approved for use under the programme, alongside the CoronaVac developed by Sinovac.

As of Monday, 93 per cent of Singapore’s population have received their shots from the primary vaccination series while 80 per cent have received their booster shots.

As of Tuesday, there have been a total of 1.86 million COVID-19 cases and 1,602 deaths from the disease.

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