Unsettled by Spread of H5N1, US Invests in Moderna mRNA Vaccine for Flu

modernaAs H5N1 avian flu spreads in US dairy cows, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has granted approximately $176 million to Moderna to develop an mRNA-based vaccine for influenza with pandemic-potential.

“We have successfully taken lessons learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic and used them to better prepare for future public health crises. As part of that, we continue to develop new vaccines and other tools to help address influenza and bolster our pandemic response capabilities,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra this week.

This award will help Moderna to set up additional pandemic influenza vaccine response capability, using existing domestic large-scale commercial mRNA-based technology and manufacturing platforms developed during the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing seasonal influenza vaccine development, according to HHS.

The US government has also secured a fair pricing agreement “which will continue ensuring enduring equitable access to vaccines,” it added. Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine was one of the most expensive on the market during the pandemic.

“The award made today is part of our longstanding commitment to strengthen our preparedness for pandemic influenza,” noted Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell.

“Adding this technology to our pandemic flu toolkit enhances our ability to be nimble and quick against the circulating strains and their potential variants.”

The rapid spread of H5N1 bird flu in US dairy cows has rattled the US, affecting 12 states, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

The award will enable the rapid development of an mRNA vaccine targeted to various influenza strains with pandemic potential, and enable development and manufacturing to pivot quickly, if needed, to address other threats.

Image Credits: Jernej Furman/Flickr.

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