This Could Be the Major Difference in Your Next COVID Vaccine, Experts Say
Your follow-up shots could be protecting you against more than new variants of the virus.
The effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines is proving itself in the real world—case numbers continue to drop as more people receive their doses. Still, scientists have pointed out that regular boosters will likely be needed to keep variants of the virus from emerging and spreading in the future. But thanks to new technology, there could be a major difference in your next COVID vaccine that might carry some extra benefits. Read on to see how your future shots may work.
A vaccine producer says your next COVID vaccine could include your yearly flu shot as well.
According to a news release from vaccine producer Novavax on May 10, early trials of a study conducted on animals found that their combination COVID-19 and flu vaccine successfully produced an immune response. The preliminary findings could pave the way for future vaccines that will tackle both seasonal pathogens with a single shot.
"Despite low rates during the COVID-19 pandemic, influenza remains a significant risk to global public health and the need for versatile, more effective vaccines is as important as ever, including against the flu," Gregory Glenn, president of research and development at Novavax, said in a statement. "We believe that this novel combination vaccine candidate … could be an important future tool in the long-term fight against both of these harmful respiratory viruses."
Novavax will likely begin a clinical trial of the combination vaccine on humans this year.
The study tested a combination of NanoFlu, the company's seasonal flu vaccine that has yet to be submitted to officials for approval, and NVX-CoV2373, the company's COVID-19 vaccine that researchers recently found to be about 90 percent effective against the virus in a Phase Three clinical trial in the U.K. Representatives from Novavax said that results from the combination flu-COVID vaccine trial will now undergo peer review, but that clinical trials in humans "are expected to begin by the end of the year."
"Seasonal influenza and COVID-19 combination vaccines will likely be critical to combating emerging COVID-19 variants," Russell Wilson, the executive vice president and general manager of NanoFlu for Novavax, said in the company's statement. "Millions of people are affected by influenza each year in the U.S., and despite our vaccination efforts, currently available flu vaccines are only partially effective … We expect this combination vaccine will help control both COVID-19 and influenza illness."
Moderna's CEO has also said his company is working on a combination flu and COVID-19 vaccine.
Novavax isn't alone in working on a two-in-one shot. During an appearance on CNBC's Squawk Box on April 14, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel revealed that his company hopes to target two health concerns in the future with one booster shot that combines COVID and flu vaccines. "What we're trying to do at Moderna actually is try to get a flu vaccine in the clinic this year and then combine our flu vaccine to our COVID vaccine, so you only have to get one boost at your local CVS store … every year that would protect you to the variant of concern against COVID and the seasonal flu strain," he explained.
Bancel also added that he believes Moderna can make highly effective flu vaccines that surpass the normal flu vaccine's typical efficacy rate of 30 to 60 percent. "We believe we should be able to get a high efficacy flu vaccines combined in the same shot with the COVID variants—high efficacy so you can take one dose and then have a nice winter," he said.
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New technology has sped up the development and production process for vaccines.
One expert pointed out that the convenience of combining the annual doses could have a drastic effect on protecting the public from the two potentially deadly viruses. "It obviously would be very impactful if we could give a shot for influenza and COVID at the same time since it would be hard to tell the difference clinically in those two things and they happen in about the same season," Dan Shirley, Medical Director of Infection Prevention with UnityPoint Health—Meriter in Wisconsin, told a local NBC affiliate.
But Shirley also pointed out that the development of COVID-19 vaccines represented a turning point in the way immunizations were developed and produced, likely increasing the speed at which they hit the market in the future. "The other major benefit of mRNA technology, but also other vaccine technology, is that we can make vaccines much more quickly," he added.