Key points:

  • $176 million awarded to Moderna to accelerate the development of a vaccine against H5N1 avian influenza.
  • Late-stage trials of the vaccine will begin in 2025.
  • H5N1 vaccination is not currently recommended for the general public due to the low risk of infection.

As concerns grew over the outbreak of the H5N1 virus in dairy cows, as well as the infection of three dairy farm workers in March of this year, the US government awarded Moderna $176 million. The funds will be used to accelerate the development of a vaccine against avian influenza, Moderna announced today. Tuesday.

Late-stage trials of the vaccine are expected to begin in 2025. The decision comes amid growing concerns about the potential spread of the virus among people.

Vaccine testing

At a press conference, US officials announced the start of final-stage trials of Moderna’s vaccine against H5N1 avian influenza in 2025. The first results from the current phase of testing are expected in the coming weeks.

The final stage of the study will focus on assessing the safety and immune response of the vaccine.

The contract provides for the possibility of speeding up the development of a vaccine if the number of cases of the disease in people increases, those infected become severely ill, or the possibility of human-to-human transmission of the virus is discovered. Currently, the exact number of vaccine doses Moderna will be able to produce is unknown.

Meanwhile, the H5N1 outbreak in US dairy cattle reported in March of this year affected more than 130 herds in 12 states. Scientists are concerned that the virus circulating in poultry and dairy farms could mutate and become easily transmitted between people, leading to a pandemic.

Despite the low risk of avian influenza for the population, vaccination isn’t currently recommended for any population group. However, there are “serious discussions” within the government about the advisability of vaccinating agricultural workers.

When will the vaccine be available?

We can expect new announcements regarding H5N1 vaccines in the near future. This was stated by representatives of the US government. At a recent press conference, Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services Jenn O’Connell said that negotiations are underway with Pfizer to develop an mRNA vaccine against H5N1.

Moderna and Pfizer’s H5N1 vaccines are based on messenger RNA technology, which is also used in their COVID-19 vaccines. Traditional flu vaccines can take four to six months to produce.

Earlier, US authorities announced the redirection of a batch of the CSL Seqirus vaccine, which fully corresponds to the current strain of the virus, for the production of ready-to-use doses. This batch could provide 4.8 million doses if needed.