Canada approves Moderna shot targeting Omicron

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Canada on Thursday authorized an updated Moderna COVID-19 booster shot that specifically targets the Omicron variant and is said to provide significantly better protection against it.

In a summary of the decision, Health Canada said clinical trials of the new bivalent vaccine induced significantly higher immune responses than its predecessor against the now dominant Omicron variants.

It also matched the older Moderna vaccine's effectiveness against the original virus, and is recommended as a booster in adults aged 18 years and over. (Bivalent means the jab targets both the original and new strains).

Britain has also approved the new Moderna vaccine, while the United States and the European Union have approved both the new Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech Omicron jabs.

Canadian Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said the bivalent Moderna Spikevax vaccine "is anticipated to provide stronger and broader protection, including against the Omicron variants that have been circulating."

It is the first bivalent shot to be authorized for use in Canada. Pfizer-BioNTech are awaiting approval of their own version of an Omicron-targeting booster and are expected to make new submissions soon, a public health official told a briefing.

Canada has already purchased 12 million doses of the new Moderna jab, which are expected to be made available to the public at the end of September.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged all Canadians to "get out and get vaccinated."

"COVID is not done with us," he told reporters in Winnipeg, Manitoba where he met with a group of nursing students. "As comes and people get pushed back indoors there is a real risk of another serious wave of COVID."

According to government data, 86 percent of eligible Canadians or about 31 million people have received two COVID jabs. But only about half have so far received a booster.

© 2022 AFP

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