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Jun 11, 2024, 11:06am EDT
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Combined mRNA COVID-flu vaccine shows promise in Moderna trial

Insights from Bloomberg, BBC, The Washington Post, and CNN

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Moderna vaccine vials
Dado Ruvic/Reuters
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The News

A combination COVID-19-flu vaccine may be more effective in boosting immunity than two separate shots in some people, according to preliminary results released by Moderna on Monday. The release comes from Moderna’s ongoing Phase-3 clinical trial — the gold standard test a treatment, including a vaccine, must pass.

The results, while not published or peer reviewed, suggest the combined mRNA vaccine works as well or better than comparative vaccines against different strains of both viruses, Moderna stated.

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The full trial results will be released later this year, Moderna added. If federal regulators approve the combined vaccine for use, then it could be available to people as soon as the end of 2025.

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Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Fewer shots could boost vaccine uptake

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Sources:  
Washington Post, BBC Global News Podcast

Combining the flu and COVID-19 vaccines could prove “a sound public health strategy,” experts told The Washington Post. There’s also some evidence to suggest people are more skeptical of COVID-19 vaccines than the flu shot. Some 22.9% of adults in the US got a coronavirus vaccine this winter, while 48.5% got the flu shot, according to government data. A single shot lowers the burden for patients, who might not schedule or attend two appointments, or be willing to get two shots in one go. It also means that people already used to getting a flu shot every winter don’t need to change that habit, and can still benefit. “You’re getting one dose, one needle versus two needles,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel told the BBC Global News Podcast.

COVID-19 booster doses have limited efficacy

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Sources:  
StatNews, Bloomberg, BBC

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention says booster shots control the spread of COVID-19, but their protective effect does seem to wane over time. Boosters significantly lower the odds of a serious infection, and at-risk groups, like pregnant people and the elderly, should get them. But past boosters have offered “weak and fast-waning” protection, Bloomberg’s science columnist wrote in 2023, adding, “there’s room to do better.” That said, data from earlier this year showed COVID-19 boosters had similar performance to the flu jab — a highly trusted vaccine that is known for offering protection, but not a panacea. If Moderna’s data on their new combined jab holds up, it could offer a better alternative.

The era of mRNA vaccines is now

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Sources:  
CNN, Medical News Today, Financial Times

COVID-19 vaccines were the first to use mRNA technology in the wild. The vaccines use a molecule called messenger RNA, which acts as a script DNA uses to make proteins. The COVID-19 vaccines carry viral mRNA, essentially giving the body’s cells the instructions they need to recognize and fight the virus when it encounters it. But mRNA vaccines can be tweaked to other kinds of pathogens and cancers, Nobel Prize-winning chemist Thomas R. Cech told CNN. “We’re at this fascinating moment in time, where the opportunities seem almost unlimited,” Cech added.

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