Moderna vaccine
Moderna vaccineReuters

British drug regulators on Monday became the first in the world to authorize an updated version of Moderna's coronavirus vaccine that aims to protect against the original virus and the Omicron variant, The Associated Press reported.

In a statement, the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency said it had given the green light to Moderna's combination "bivalent" vaccine, which will be used as an adult booster shot.

Each dose of the booster shot will target both the original COVID-19 virus that was first detected in 2020 and the omicron BA.1 variant that was first picked up in November.

British regulators said the side effects were similar to those seen for Moderna's original booster shot and were typically "mild and self-resolving."

In June, Moderna announced that its revised COVID vaccine, a proposed booster dose that is designed to target both the original SARS-CoV-2 strain and the Omicron variant, is more effective against Omicron than its original vaccine.

Trial results, the company said, show that the booster causes neutralizing antibodies to increase eight-fold, based on monitoring trial participants for a month following the injection. Side effects were found to be "comparable to" those following its already-existing booster dose of 50 mcg.

The company later said the booster performed well against Omicron's latest subvariants.

Stephane Bancel, Moderna's Chief Executive, said in a statement on Monday that Britain’s move was the first regulatory authorization for a vaccine aiming to fight the omicron variant, predicting the booster would have an "important role" to play in protecting people against COVID-19 in the winter.

Britain's health officials have not yet decided whether or not the tweaked vaccine will be used in its fall strategy. In July, the government said everyone 50 and over would get a COVID booster in the fall.