US pays Moderna $176 million for bird-flu vaccine development

The US government has allocated $176 million to Moderna for the development of a messenger-ribonucleic-acid-based (mRNA) pandemic influenza vaccine that targets bird flu. This decision comes as part of an effort to improve preparedness for public health crises following the lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic. While bird flu is not currently a significant threat to humans, experts are advocating for the development of a vaccine that can be quickly deployed in case the virus mutates and becomes a concern.

Utilizing mRNA technology, which was also used in Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine, allows for the rapid production of vaccines. The US government believes that incorporating this technology into its pandemic flu response strategy will enhance its ability to respond swiftly to bird flu outbreaks. The funding from the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority will support the late-stage development and testing of Moderna's vaccine against H5N1 avian influenza.

H5N1 avian influenza has been present in birds for many years, with recent outbreaks also affecting other animals such as cattle. While there is currently no evidence of the virus spreading easily among humans, experts warn of the potential consequences if the virus were to mutate. Symptoms of H5N1 in humans can range from mild respiratory and eye infections to potentially fatal pneumonia, according to the US Centers for Disease Control.

Moderna has initiated early tests of its mRNA bird flu vaccine in healthy adult volunteers, with results expected later this year. The outcomes of these tests will help guide the next steps in the development of the vaccine. Stay tuned for updates on this important public health initiative.


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