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Serum Institute of India's (SII) Chief Executive Officer Adar Poonawalla said on Monday that he expects an Omicron-specific vaccine against the coronavirus for India in six months

Adar Poonawalla, the world's biggest vaccine maker, produces AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine under the brand name Covishield. "Think this vaccine is important as a booster," Adar Poonawalla was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom has given the first green light to a variant-adapted shot that targets both the original and Omicron version of the coronavirus. The UK was also the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine in late 2020.

The UK medicines regulator (MHRA) gave the vaccine made by US drug company Moderna conditional approval as a booster for adults on Monday.

The decision was taken by Britain's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). It is now expected to issue a recommendation on how the vaccine should be deployed in the country.

The decision was based on the clinical trial data. The clinical trial data showed that the booster triggered "a strong immune response" against both Omicron (BA.1) and the original virus which was detected in 2020.

In June, Moderna had said that the trial data showed that when the vaccine is given as a fourth dose, the variant-adapted shot raised virus-neutralizing antibodies against Omicron by eight-fold.

The MHRA also cited an exploratory analysis in which the shot was found to generate a "good immune response" against the currently dominant Omicron offshoots BA.4 and BA.5.

According to Moderna, trial data showed its variant-adapted booster generated virus-neutralizing antibody levels against the subvariants that were 1.69 times higher than those given the original booster.

The MHRA added that no safety concerns were identified in the new formulation.

The UK government had earlier said that a vaccine booster programme would begin in "early autumn". It had said that shots would be offered to "over 50s, individuals in clinical risk groups, frontline workers and care homes staff".

(With agency inputs)

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