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Canada buys up millions more doses of Moderna's bivalent COVID-19 vaccine

The federal government has purchased a total of 12 million doses of Moderna's bivalent vaccine that targets both the original strain of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant.

In a press release Monday, the company said Canada purchased 4.5 million new doses.

Those are in addition to 1.5 million doses originally scheduled to arrive in Canada next year. The delivery deadline has been pushed up and the doses are expected to land in Canada this year.

The government and the company also agreed to convert six million doses of the company's original COVID-19 Spikevax vaccine to bivalent doses.

<who> Photo credit: Canadian Press

The agreement depends on Health Canada's approval of the company's bivalent vaccine, which was submitted for review on June 30.

"We thank the Government of Canada for their trust in our mRNA technology and our next-generation bivalent COVID-19 vaccine platform," Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement.

There is currently no timeline for approval.

The COVID-19 vaccines currently available in Canada are designed to solely target the original strain of the virus. Since the pandemic began, the virus has continued to mutate and prove more adept at evading immune detection.

The proposed bivalent vaccines are designed to recognize specific mutations in the spike protein of the Omicron BA. 1 subvariant.

The most common variants in Canada now are all subversions of Omicron, which arrived at the end of 2021 and have spread aggressively since.

Last week, British regulators became the first in the world to authorize Moderna's vaccine that protects against both the original strain of the novel coronavirus and the Omicron BA. 1 subvariant.

Health Canada is also reviewing a bivalent Omicron vaccine submission from Pfizer-BioNTech.

The drug regulator has already asked vaccine manufacturers to further tweak their bivalent vaccines to target the fast-spreading Omicron BA. 4 and BA. 5 subvariants as soon as possible.

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