MILLIONS of Brits will get new Omicron-busting Covid booster jabs from September 5 as part of the autumn booster programme.
It comes as UK health chiefs earlier became the first in the world to approve an updated version of the Moderna jab that targets two variants.
Scientists say the new vaccine will give stronger protection because it makes antibodies that are a closer match to the current strain.
The rollout will begin in two weeks and will be offered to all over-50s, vulnerable people, and health and care workers — a total of 26million people.
Care home residents and people who are housebound will be among the first to be jabbed when the rollout gets underway, NHS England has said.
Up to 3,000 sites are expected to be part of the rollout, including GP practices and community pharmacies, and new venues may be added to the scheme.
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NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: "The NHS was the first healthcare system in the world to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials, and will now be the first to deliver the new, variant-busting vaccine when the rollout begins at the start of September."
Omicron-specific jabs will be given out as standard, with regulators also reviewing a new version of the Pfizer vaccine, while the originals are available as a back-up.
Vaccines that work for two infections are known as bivalents and have been developed by global manufacturers since the emergence of the Omicron variant.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: “Vaccines remain our best defence against Covid and this safe and effective vaccine will broaden immunity and potentially improve protection against variants as we learn to live with this virus.”
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Dr Mary Ramsay, of the UK Health Security Agency, added: “By taking up the booster vaccine this autumn, you will increase your protection.”
Moderna’s updated jab targets both the original strain and the first version of Omicron — known as BA.1 — which took over in the UK last Christmas.
It is not an exact match to the current BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants but is close enough to give a “significantly higher” immune response, Moderna has said.
The antibody boost is expected to further reduce the risk of hospitalisation and death, as well as offering better protection against transmission.
The MHRA approved the vaccine after clinical trials showed it “triggers a strong immune response” and has no more side effects than the original jab.
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It is expected to decide on Pfizer’s new Omicron booster within weeks.
Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, said: “We are delighted with the MHRA’s authorisation of our next- generation Covid-19 vaccine.
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