Moderna, the maker of the second COVID-19 vaccine to see emergency use approval in the U.S., is now looking to create a dual vaccine against the flu and the novel virus, the company’s chief executive recently said.
Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said Tuesday that such a jab could be ready for use in a couple of years, though it would be subject to standard regulatory approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), not emergency use as its existing coronavirus vaccine was, he said during The Wall Street Journal Health Forum.
“Today the vaccines we have for seasonal flu are OK in a great year and they are pretty bad in a bad year, in terms of efficacy,” he said during the forum, per the Journal. “It is not impossible that in a couple of years we should have the product I just talked about — a high efficacy seasonal flu vaccine and a COVID vaccine — for you at your pharmacy on an annual basis.”
For context, the flu vaccine created for the 2019-2020 season was about 45% effective in preventing illness, according to the Centers for Diease Control and Prevention.
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Bancel said the biotech giant would use groundbreaking messenger RNA (mRNA) technology to create the dual vaccine, the same technology that was used to create its initial COVID-19 vaccine. The Pfizer-BioNTech jab was also created using mRNA technology.
Both vaccines were the fastest to ever be developed and could bring about a new era of vaccine development, experts have said, as the technology could be used to better existing vaccines and create new ones for a range of diseases.
In the year that has been the novel coronavirus, the flu has taken a backseat, with cases at historic lows. Experts who previously spoke to Fox News on the country’s lower than usual flu activity this year said that preventative measures to protect against COVID-19 — such as wearing masks, social distancing, frequent handwashing, and avoiding indoor crowds — have likely played a role in keeping the flu at bay.
This 2020-2021 flu season aside, the CDC estimates that the flu has resulted in some 12,000 — 61,000 deaths annually since 2010.
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The news comes after Moderna announced late last month the modified COVID-19 vaccine it developed to address the concerning South African coronavirus variant was ready to be tested in humans in clinical trials.
Moderna in a news release at the time said it had shipped the first batch of doses of the new jab to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to commence a Phase 1 clinical trial “that will be led and funded by the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).”
The new vaccine candidate, dubbed mRNA-1273.351, was created to better address the South African variant after the company’s existing vaccine was found to have reduced efficacy against the mutation.