Bivalent booster vaccine: How the new Covid jab’s side effects compare to previous doses

Omicron sub-variant discussed by infectious disease expert

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The Government has approved an “updated” COVID-19 jab, known as the Spikevax bivalent Original/Omicron vaccine, to be given as a booster. Half of the Moderna-made vaccine (25 micrograms) targets the original virus strain from 2020 and the other half (25 micrograms) targets the Omicron variant. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said it was found to “meet the UK regulator’s standards of safety, quality and effectiveness”.

This decision comes as data from a clinical trial showed how a booster with the bivalent Moderna vaccine triggers a “strong immune response” against both Omicron (BA.1) and the first 2020 strain.

The bivalent vaccine was also found to create a “good immune response” against the Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

Dr June Raine, MHRA Chief Executive said: “I am pleased to announce the approval of the Moderna bivalent booster vaccine, which was found in the clinical trial to provide a strong immune response against the Omicron BA.1 variant as well as the original 2020 strain.

“The first generation of COVID-19 vaccines being used in the UK continue to provide important protection against the disease and save lives.

“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.”

However, as with any vaccine or medication, there is the risk of side effects and a number of these were reported from the other Covid jabs.

Common side effects felt in the first two days included:

  • A painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection
  • Feeling tired
  • Headache, aches and chills.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) says: “You may also have flu-like symptoms with episodes of shivering and shaking for a day or two.

“However, a high temperature could also indicate that you have COVID-19 or another infection.

“You can rest and take the normal dose of paracetamol (follow the advice in the packaging) to help make you feel better.”

An “uncommon” side effect of the original vaccine was swollen glands in the armpit or neck on the same side as the arm where you had the vaccine, which usually lasted up to 10 days.

With the new bivalent vaccine, the MHRA found that the side effects were the same as those of the original Moderna booster dose.

It says these were “typically mild and self-resolving”, and “no serious safety concerns were identified”.

Worldwide, there were rare cases of blood clots and unusual bleeding following vaccines – but just for the AstraZeneca and Janssen jabs.

But due to the “high risk” of complications of death from Covid the MHRA and other health bodies ruled in favour of vaccination.

The UKHSA adds: “Worldwide, rare cases of inflammation of the heart called myocarditis or pericarditis have been reported after Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

“These cases have been seen mostly in younger men within several days after vaccination.

“Most of these people recovered and felt better following rest and simple treatments.”

It is expected the rollout of the new booster will begin in September.

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