Pfizer and BioNTech have launched a phase 1 trial for an mRNA-based vaccine that would target both COVID-19 and the influenza virus.
According to BioNTech, the vaccine candidate is a combination of Pfizer’s flu vaccine candidate, which is in phase 3 clinical development, and the company’s bivalent omicron-specific coronavirus vaccine dose.
The study includes 180 adults between the ages of 18 and 64. Participants received their first doses of the vaccine candidate this week. The follow-up period for each of the participants will be six months.
“The flexibility and manufacturing speed of the mRNA technology has demonstrated that it is well-suited for other respiratory diseases,” Annaliesa Anderson, Pfizer’s senior vice president and chief scientific officer for vaccine research and development, said in a statement.
“Even with existing seasonal influenza vaccines, the burden of this virus is severe across the world causing thousands of deaths and hospitalizations every year,” Anderson said.
As COVID-19 vaccines have become widely available, discussion has arisen over the possibility of a combined flu and coronavirus vaccine. Experts have argued that combining the two vaccines could enhance vaccine uptake and potentially lower hesitancy, as most people are comfortable with receiving an annual flu vaccine.
The launch of Pfizer and BioNTech’s study into a combined flu and COVID-19 vaccine comes as health officials warn of what could be a harsh respiratory viral season this year. Exposure to the influenza virus has been low for the past two years as the pandemic pushed more people indoors, and a harsh flu season observed in the Southern Hemisphere caused officials to worry that the same could happen in the north.
Last week, the number of weekly confirmed COVID-19 cases rose for the first time since cases peaked in late July. Europe has already been dealing with a surge in cases, and the U.S. has tended to follow transatlantic trends not long after.
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