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UK approves COVID vaccine that targets Omicron subvariants

Yahoo Finance reporter Anjalee Khemlani details how the U.K. has approved a vaccine that targets both the original and omicron variants of the coronavirus.

Video transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

SEANA SMITH: The UK is now the first country to approve a dual COVID vaccine, targeting both the original virus and the Omicron variant. Anjalee Khemlani is here with that story. And Anjalee, certainly huge news for the UK. What does that mean for the timing here in the US? Because there certainly has been talk of an updated vaccine that's targeting Omicron.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: That's right. So our timeline is a little bit different because the FDA asked these companies to do a separate vaccine for us, for the US population. And that is the BA.5 and original strain of bivalent vaccine. So Moderna and Pfizer are both trying to target, basically next month for rolling these out.

When the Biden administration asked them to, they originally did say that they would only be able to get to it by October. We do know also that this Omicron bivalent was what they had hoped the US would be asking for because they were already in the works for that.

So right now, the UK is the first to greenlight that Omicron bivalent. We know that the EU, as well, as well as Australia and Canada are also looking at this same one. And we're going a separate route. So these companies have to then make those vaccines for us separately.

DAVE BRIGGS: Needless to say, we spend most of our time talking about the US and, of course, the UK in terms of vaccines. What about lower and middle income countries around the world?

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: I'm so glad you asked. So what we're seeing now is really a shift in policy and a shift in what these companies are looking at. you look at Moderna alone, its ex-US COVID sales are greater than the US.

And so we're looking at countries-- at companies that are targeting low and middle income countries, like Novavax, like Vaxxinity who are working on either the original strain or second generation to really ramp up the global vaccination scene.

Right now, a quote from the Vaxxinity CEO in a recent interview with me, talking about the market there and how largely-- you know, these LMICs of low and middle income countries have been largely ignored. And she said, quote, "They've never been on top of mind for most US drug companies, but there's a lot of market there."

And it's true. If you think about the total population of the world by comparison to the US, right? It's obviously a lot more. So that's where a lot of companies seem to be looking at for right now.

DAVE BRIGGS: Yeah, we often forget, we're actually a small slice.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Right, a small part.

DAVE BRIGGS: Even though we dominate most of the news. Anjalee Khemlani, good stuff. Appreciate that.