(Washington) Pfizer Inc. announced Monday that it has made the first injection to test humans with a flu vaccine using messenger RNA technology already used in its COVID-19 vaccine.
US biotech company Moderna also announced that it began trials of such a product in early July.
Pfizer’s clinical trial is taking place in the United States, and will evaluate the safety of a single dose of this new vaccine, as well as its immunogenicity (the ability to cause an immune reaction) in healthy people aged 65 to 85.
It will include a few hundred participants, according to clinical trial details posted on a US government website.
Current flu vaccines use inactivated viruses – a time-consuming process. The target strains of the constantly evolving virus must therefore be selected for vaccine development about six months before the start of the seasonal epidemic.
The efficacy of currently used vaccines generally ranges from 40% to 60%.
“The flexibility of mRNA technology and its rapid production could enable better binding to the (circulating virus) strain, greater reliability of supply, and an opportunity to improve the efficacy of current influenza vaccines,” Pfizer says in its press release.
The World Health Organization estimates that influenza is responsible for about 3 to 5 million cases of serious illness each year, and 290,000 to 650,000 deaths.
In addition to influenza, Pfizer said it plans to study the use of messenger RNA technology against other respiratory viruses, as well as against genetic diseases or cancers.
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