COVID19: Updated vaccine in Cyprus by December

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Cyprus should receive the first batches of an updated COVID-19 vaccine covering the original strain of the coronavirus and the Omicron variant by the end of the year, according to health experts.

The EU’s approval of the first COVID-19 bivalent vaccine 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.

An updated version of the COVID-19 vaccine made by Moderna that targets two coronavirus variants (known as a “bivalent” vaccine) was approved for adult booster doses by the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) after it was found to meet the regulator’s standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.

In comments to the Cyprus News Agency, Dr Petrou said deliveries might vary from country to country according to need and timing strategies for such boosters.

He explained that future vaccination strategies might also vary depending on the availability of updated vaccines, adding that countries may need to use different types for different strategies and population groups.

Currently, Cyprus is offering a fourth shot as a booster to those over 60 and the vulnerable, a strategy which Petrou finds imperative in dealing with hospitalisations.

“People should not be complacent while waiting for the new vaccines.”

Referring to Moderna’s bivalent vaccine, Petrou said it covers the original strain of the virus and the Omicron variant, while it appears to have satisfactory protection against the Omicron 4 and Omicron 5 subvariants.

Petrou said the European Medicine Agency should approve the vaccine next month.

He said the vaccine could be available in Cyprus after September, but there are no clear timelines.

The UK became the first country to greenlight the vaccine as the local medicines’ regulator, the MHRA, approved the shot over the weekend.

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 continues to provide important protection against the disease and save lives,” MHRA chief executive June Raine said in a statement.