Fresh twist in fight against Omicron as new vaccine approved in Australia

Australians who have dragged their feet in deciding whether or not to receive their third or fourth Covid-19 jab could be better off after the government approved the first-ever multi-strain booster to be used in the country.

The nation’s peak vaccine body quietly approved the use of the Moderna vaccine for people aged 18 years and older on Monday evening.

It marks the first time a Covid vaccine designed to target two strains of the virus has been approved for use in Australia.

Health Minister Mark Butler said the new shot was just “another tool” in Australia’s Covid response.

“This is an important first step in showing how mRNA vaccines can be adapted to different dominant variants and subvariants,” he said.

Unlike the original vaccine, which was designed to target the initial Wuhan strain, the new shot also targets the Omicron BA. 1 strain which caused chaos over the Christmas period.

The government confirmed the first doses of the new booster have arrived in Australia and are undergoing batch testing by the TGA.

From there, it will be rolled out as existing stocks of the original Moderna shot are “exhausted”.

In its recommendation, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation said the multi-strain vaccine generated a “modestly higher level” of antibody response against multiple Omicron sub variants.

But it stressed Australians should roll up their sleeve for whatever booster is available to them.

“ATAGI considers receiving all recommended doses to be a more important factor in obtaining optimal protection against severe Covid-19 than which variant is contained within the dose,” it said.

Australia became just the third country in the world to approve a bivalent vaccine, following the UK and Canada, when the drug regulator signed off on it earlier this month.

It’s not yet clear if the emergence of the booster will assist in the ongoing battle to raise the nation’s lagging booster rates.

While more than 71 per cent of the eligible population has received their third shot, just 40.3 per cent of those aged 30 and over have returned for their winter booster.