New Covid vaccine to be rolled out next month in the UK – what are the side effects?

Moderna: UK authorises next-generation bivalent vaccine

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This means introducing a new type of a vaccine, one which can protect the public from not just one variant, but two.

That is the definition of a bivalent vaccine, one that can immunise someone from two variants and the type of vaccine developed by Moderna.

Which variant does this new vaccine protect against?

The bivalent vaccine is designed to protect people from the original strain of COVID-19 and the original strain of the most dominant form of Covid, Omicron, specifically Omicron BA.1.

Many in the UK will be familiar with Omicron and its subvariants. Originally from South Africa, the variant began spreading through the UK last winter and has gone onto evolve into five additional subvariants:
• BA.2
• BA.2.75 (Also known as Centaurus)
• BA.3
• BA.4
• BA.5.

While the new bivalent vaccine is designed for Omicron BA.1, the hope is that because of BA.1’s similarity to all the other forms of Omicron that it will prove more effective.

Are there any side effects?

In common with all other Covid vaccines to date, there are some side effects. However, the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) has said these are the same as the original Moderna vaccine.

The side effects which could arise include:
• A sore arm
• Headache
• Nausea
• Tiredness
• Fever.

These side effects normally last up to a maximum of a few days before fading. While some people experience more serious side effects, these are rare.

Are there any concerns about the vaccine in question?

There is one concern which has raised its head in relation to the rollout of the vaccine in September, supply. Although the UK is the first to approve the vaccine, this doesn’t mean it has ordered the most doses.

Amid worries the UK would run out, vaccines minister Maggie Throup said on Twitter: “We will have enough supply to offer everybody eligible new vaccines targeted at the Omicron variant.”

Anxieties about medicine shortages come as the UK faces a medicine shortage crisis. From pain relief, to prostate cancer, and vaccines; there are shortages of medicine across the board.

So acute is the crisis that pharmacists are now warning of a critical shortage of key medicines, medicines which people need in order to survive.

Speaking to the Pharmaceutical Journal, one pharmacist said: “Presently hardly a week goes by without at least one pharmacy asking us to give an alternative. Such requests are often not easy to navigate and can sometimes be quite dangerous. It creates a lot of stress to both patients and professionals alike.”

This comes as a poll shows 54 percent of pharmacists thought the public’s health had been put at risk by these shortages in the past six months. Due to the shortages, patients are having to go back to their GP and ask for an alternative medication.

Meanwhile, founder of the Pausitivity campaign, Elizabeth Carr-Elis, told the Daily Express: “It’s three years since I first talked about HRT shortages. In that time, I’ve paid for prescriptions that haven’t been filled, had to have my medication changed because it wasn’t in stock and generally just been worried every time I have to ask for more as I’m never sure if I’ll get it.”

Vaccines haven’t been immune to the shortages either, most recently the UK began to run low on vaccines being used to treat another viral threat.

Although smallpox is no longer a problem in the UK, in recent years it has been found to be effective in immunising someone against monkeypox – a virus making a return to the UK after four years.

Unlike 2018, however, the virus is spreading, with around 3,000 people currently living with the virus. In response to the findings and the outbreak, the UK has begun to roll-out the smallpox vaccine.

However, due to the global demand and supply chain problems, the UK has already begun to run low on the doses. In a statement, the UKHSA (United Kingdom Health Security Agency) said the next doses would be available by September.

It will be at this point that the roll-out of the new Moderna vaccine begins and both programmes will take much needed NHS staff away from wards and hospitals already running cripplingly short on people to run them.

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