Moderna’s ‘super jab’ to tackle flu, COVID and RSV in the works

During the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccination production underwent revolutionary changes to accelerate the development and distribution of vaccines. New and innovative vaccine technologies, such as mRNA vaccines, were utilised for the first time on a large scale. This allowed for faster and more flexible vaccine development.

Moderna has recently made headlines by releasing information about the development of a ‘super jab’ to tackle COVID-19, flu, and RSV – a trifecta in the battle against respiratory viruses. This could usher in a potentially revolutionary approach to combat infectious diseases.

The mRNA advantage

mRNA is like a set of instructions in our bodies that tells our cells how to make special proteins. After decades of research, scientists have figured out how to use this mRNA to create vaccines that teach our cells to make a specific protein found in a virus, like the COVID-19 “spike” protein. When our body sees this foreign protein, it fights back by making antibodies to protect us. And if it ever encounters the same foreign protein again, our immune system remembers how to deal with it. This helps keep us safe from viruses in the future.

We know Moderna for its groundbreaking use of mRNA technology in COVID-19 vaccine development during the thick of the pandemic. Moderna’s bivalent booster (Original/Omicron BA.4-5) is already available at healthcare providers and community pharmacies for eligible people. Their ​​XBB.1.5. monovalent vaccine, to tackle the one of the latest COVID-19 strains, is also ready and seeking authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Building upon this, Moderna aims to leverage the mRNA tech to target other common respiratory viruses, flu and RSV, in one go.

The current state of flu and RSV vaccines

Unlike the new mRNA vaccines, the regular flu vaccine is made in chicken eggs, which take about six months to produce enough for everyone. Also, the flu virus changes each year, so scientists have to pick the right strains for the vaccine months before the flu season starts. 

Making a vaccine for RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) has been tricky because the virus has a part on its surface called the F protein that changes shape when it infects cells. The best antibodies, whether made by our body or in a lab, attack a specific part of this F protein that is only exposed before the shape change happens. This has made it challenging to create a vaccine that works effectively against RSV.

In a long-awaited breakthrough, two pharmaceutical companies have successfully developed an RSV vaccine. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Glaxo SmithKline and Pfizer’s vaccines in May 2023, both for use in adults over the age of 60. They are not yet approved in Australia. RSV vaccines for newborns, very young children and pregnant women are still under development.

The vision for the ‘super jab’

Moderna’s vision centers around the concept of a ‘super jab’ a vaccine that would encompass protection against COVID-19, flu, and RSV. This would be welcome news for the many people receiving two injections at once, one for flu and the other for COVID-19, and yet who still remain unprotected against RSV. By combining antigens from these viruses into one vaccine, Moderna will seek to simplify vaccination efforts and bolster overall immunity against respiratory infections. 

Moderna’s phase 3 clinical trials for an mRNA flu vaccine version delivered mixed results. While it worked well against A strains of the flu and triggered a strong immune response, it did not prove to be as effective as the already approved vaccines for B strains of the flu. Additionally, during the trials, 70 percent of the participants who received Moderna’s vaccine reported some side effects, most of which were mild, compared to 48 percent who received a different vaccine for comparison.

On the other hand, Moderna’s individual RSV vaccine received Breakthrough Therapy Designation from the FDA in late January 2023. That designation is intended to expedite the development and review of drugs for serious or life-threatening conditions, and was based on positive topline data from Moderna’s phase 3 clinical trial on the vaccine. 

As of now, Moderna’s plans for the super jab are ambitious and forward-thinking. While they are committed to it, the actual development of the ‘super jab’ is likely to require further extensive research, pre-clinical trials, and rigorous clinical testing to ensure safety and efficacy. As the situation evolves, Moderna’s progress will undoubtedly be monitored closely by the medical community and public alike.

Opinions or facts expressed within the content have been sourced from various news sources. While every effort has been taken to source them accurately, the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates do not take any responsibility for errors in these sources. Patients should not rely on the facts or opinions in the content to manage their own health, and should seek the advice of an appropriate medical professional. Further, the opinions or facts in the content do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates. 

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