Pfizer announced Monday that it has made the first injections to test humans with an influenza vaccine using messenger RNA technology, already used in its COVID-19 vaccine.
The American biotechnology company Moderna also declared that it had launched trials of such a product in early July.
Pfizer’s clinical trial is taking place in the United States, and will assess the safety of one dose of this new vaccine, as well as its immunogenicity (ability to cause an immune reaction), in healthy people 65 to 85 years of age .
It will include a few hundred participants, according to clinical trial details posted on a US government site.
Current influenza vaccines use inactivated viruses – a process that takes a long time to make. The target strains of the constantly evolving virus must therefore be chosen for the development of vaccines about six months before the start of the seasonal epidemic.
The effectiveness of the vaccines used at the moment is generally 40% to 60%.
“The flexibility of messenger RNA technology and its rapid production could potentially allow better association with the (circulating virus) strain, greater reliability of supply, and the opportunity to improve effectiveness of current influenza vaccines, ”says Pfizer in its release.
The World Health Organization estimates that influenza is responsible for about 3 to 5 million cases of serious illness each year, and 290,000 to 650,000 deaths.
In addition to influenza, Pfizer said it plans to study the use of messenger RNA technology against other respiratory viruses, as well as against genetic diseases or cancers.