The European drug regulator on Thursday backed two separate COVID-19 vaccine boosters updated to target the Omicron variant and developed by Moderna and the team of Pfizer and BioNTech.

Europe is preparing to roll out shots ahead of an anticipated rise in infections this winter.

The new so-called bivalent shots combat the BA.1 version of Omicron and the original virus first detected in China.

The recommendations are for people aged 12 years and above who have received at least primary vaccination against COVID-19, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said.

The final go-ahead will be subject to European Commission approval, which should come in fairly quickly.

Britain in August became the first country to clear the Moderna bivalent shot. Switzerland and Australia quickly followed suit.

The latest EMA recommendations come as Pfizer's booster retooled to target the currently dominant BA.4/BA.5 variants along with the original coronavirus strain has already been submitted for EU review, while Moderna's submission is imminent.

The EMA is expected to also offer its opinion on BA.4/5 adapted vaccines in the coming weeks, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides said in a statement on Thursday.

(Reporting by Natalie Grover; editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Jason Neely)