Flu News Day, 7/27/2022
Read the latest on influenza vaccines and upcoming funding opportunities in this week’s roundup.
Message in a bottle: mRNA vaccination for influenza
Compared to current seasonal influenza vaccines, mRNA influenza vaccines could increase global equity, more effectively address influenza threats and better prepare global infrastructure for a future universal influenza vaccine. While current influenza vaccines require at least six months to prepare, mRNA vaccines could be developed in a matter of weeks. As such, mRNA vaccines can rapidly respond to antigenic shifts, better preparing the world for regional nuances and pandemic threats. Additionally, mRNA vaccines are relatively cheap, safe, easily transportable and many LMICs are expanding their mRNA capacity through WHO Technology Transfer Hubs. Currently, 95% of influenza vaccines are distributed to only 50% of the global population; mRNA platforms could potentially enable vaccines to reach regions of the world currently unprotected from influenza. Learn more about the benefits and challenges of implementing mRNA influenza vaccines here.
India-based Gennova Biopharmaceuticals’ mRNA vaccine gets DCGI nod
The first mRNA COVID-19 vaccine developed in India has officially been approved for emergency use by the Drug Controller General of India. Developed by Gennova Biopharmaceuticals, the two-dose intramuscular vaccine is notably stable at 2-8°C, a storage temperature many degrees above that of the mRNA vaccines currently available. Because of this, the Gennova COVID-19 vaccine can be distributed through pre-existing cold-chain infrastructure in India. Gennova Biopharmaceuticals officials estimate that a third of India’s population could benefit from this vaccine and there is an even greater global demand for this type of thermostable vaccine. Learn more here.
Flagship unwraps new AI biotech that looks to predict variants before they’re here
Rather than waiting idly for new mutations of SARS-CoV-2 to circulate, new AI may allow researchers to develop vaccines before novel variants emerge. Apriori Bio, a biotech founded in 2020 to address “ultra-dynamic” threats such as HIV and influenza, works with public and private partners to create databases of millions of synthetic variants. Researchers test these synthetically predicted variants to learn how well they bind to therapeutic and post-infection antibodies. Scientists can then design vaccines and antibodies that bind to the variants that current vaccines may fail to address. Read more about this pro-active approach to variant threats here.
Reactogenicity and Concomitant Administration of the COVID-19 Booster and Influenza Vaccine
As experts consider co-administering seasonal influenza and COVID-19 booster vaccines, new research suggests that simultaneous vaccination only slightly increases reactogenicity, expected signs and symptoms post-vaccination, typically as a result of the immune response. Using data from CDC’s v-safe, a voluntary self-reporting platform, researchers found only an 8% increase in reactogenicity for those vaccinated with Pfizer’s COVID-19 booster and the 2021-22 seasonal influenza vaccine (compared to those only vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine) and an 11% increase for those vaccinated with Moderna’s COVID-19 booster and influenza (compared to those only vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine). Reported symptoms typically included headaches, muscle pain, and fatigue, and severe adverse effects from receiving both vaccinations were infrequent. Moreover, those who received a Pfizer and seasonal influenza vaccine did not experience absenteeism from school, work, or other normal activities any more than those who only received Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Simultaneously administering seasonal influenza and COVID-19 booster vaccines could dramatically increase uptake of both vaccines. These findings should encourage health systems to design processes for co-administration and can inform communication campaigns that endorse this strategy; read more here.