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COVID booster that also targets Omicron to be part of fall B.C. rollout

Health Canada said Thursday that it has approved the adapted version of the Moderna Spikevax COVID-19 vaccine for use in individuals 18 and older — the first bivalent COVID-19 vaccine authorized in Canada.
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Health Canada said the bivalent vaccine was found to generate a good immune response against the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. BA.5 is the dominant subvariant driving infections in B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

B.C.’s fall COVID-19 booster plan, expected to be rolled out Tuesday, will include a ­“bivalent” vaccine that targets both the original version of the virus from 2019 and the Omicron BA.1 variant.

Health Canada said Thursday that it has approved the adapted version of the Moderna Spikevax COVID-19 vaccine for use in individuals 18 and older. It’s the first bivalent COVID-19 vaccine authorized in Canada.

“After a thorough and ­independent scientific review of the evidence, Health Canada has determined that the bivalent Moderna Spikevax booster is safe and effective,” said Health Canada.

Clinical trial results showed that a booster dose of the ­bivalent Moderna Spikevax ­vaccine triggers a strong immune response against both Omicron BA.1 and the original virus strain.

Health Canada said the ­bivalent vaccine was also found to generate a good immune response against the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. BA.5 is the dominant subvariant ­driving infections in B.C.

The independent ­COVID-19 Modelling Group recently reported that infections with the Omicron BA.5 subvariant appear to have peaked and are expected to decline over the next month or so.

Moderna is providing 12 million doses of the bivalent ­vaccine to Canada, according to health officials.

In a joint statement Thursday, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the ­province has been working hard to ­prepare for the fall booster ­campaign and is set to begin distribution when the supply arrives.

Health officials expect most British Columbians should be able to get vaccinated in ­September or October.

The vaccinations will be delivered through health-authority clinics and pharmacies. Details of timing and eligibility are expected to be presented in a public update Tuesday.

Health Canada said the bivalent vaccine has a similar safety profile to the previously approved Moderna Spikevax booster, with the same mild adverse reactions that resolved quickly.

It said the authorization is based on Moderna continuing to provide information to Health Canada on the safety and efficacy of the bivalent vaccine, including any potential safety problems, based on ongoing studies and real-world use.

“Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada will continue to closely monitor the safety of this vaccine in Canada and internationally, and will take action if any safety concerns are identified,” it said in a ­statement.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

See the following links for more information on booster shots and how to get registered for vaccination, or to learn more about vaccines for children