Two-in-one jab for Covid-19 and flu could be available in late 2023: Moderna

The mRNA platform allows the company to pivot to other diseases and produce new vaccines quickly. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - A two-in-one jab for Covid-19 and flu could be available in late 2023, with American pharmaceutical Moderna saying it is currently conducting phase one trials.

Speaking during a virtual media roundtable event on Wednesday night, Moderna's chief medical officer Paul Burton said the quick turnaround is possible because of the flexibility of the messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) platform.

He said the mRNA platform allows the company to pivot to other diseases and produce new vaccines quickly, adding: "You can expect it (the jab for flu and Covid-19) in late 2023."

Dr Burton also provided an update on Moderna's plans to set up a new subsidiary in Singapore, revealing that job offers for the team have been sent out and more will be disclosed in the coming weeks.

Moderna had announced in February 2022 plans to set up a subsidiary here, which it said will add to the Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer's presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

It said then that it will be recruiting a team in Singapore to cover a range of functions in areas such as medical, regulatory, pricing, reimbursement, market access, government affairs and commercial operations.

On Wednesday, Dr Burton said that with the rapidly mutating nature of the Sars-CoV-2 virus, which causes Covid-19, there are two ways in which the world can keep this virus at bay.

The first is where people get themselves jabbed with the latest bivalent vaccines as they are being progressively rolled out around the world.

A bivalent vaccine targets more than one strain of a virus.

The second way is pharmaceuticals setting up manufacturing facilities worldwide.

Dr Burton said firms such as Moderna would then be able to move quickly and manufacture these vaccines rapidly, given the flexibility and speed in which the mRNA platform can be tweaked in just weeks.

He also provided an update on Moderna's Spikevax bivalent Covid-19 vaccine, which has received conditional authorisation in countries such as Britain, South Korea and Japan.

The vaccine, which received the Health Sciences Authority's interim approval for use here, is expected to arrive in Singapore at the end of September.

It will be used as a booster shot in those aged 18 years and older who have received the primary series of Covid-19 vaccinations.

Spikevax targets two coronavirus variants - the original from 2020 and Omicron - said Dr Burton.

It will also lead to epitope broadening - a phenomenon in which the immune system produces a broader response beyond what it targeted originally.

This broadening of the immune response means that Spikevax will not only result in the production of antibodies for the two variants, but also antibodies for other Covid-19 variants.

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