Moderna is planning to replicate the success of mRNA-based vaccines for the seasonal flu. The company announced on July 7 that it gave the new seasonal flu vaccine to the first set of volunteers in a clinical trial. The 180-people study will “evaluate the safety, reactogenicity and immunogenicity” of its mRNA flu vaccine with hopes that eventually a combination vaccine will be created that can protect people against flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory infections with one shot. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, mRNA technology was primarily seen as experimental, and now they are heralded as the future of vaccine development.

Zoom Out: The severity of seasonal flu epidemics varies from year to year, but they cause significant disruptions to healthcare systems. The WHO estimates that 3-5 million people fall severely ill, and about 290,000-650,000 die each year due to flu epidemics. In the U.S., the estimated average annual total economic burden of influenza to the healthcare system and society is $11.2 billion. Current vaccines available each year in the United States have an efficacy rate of 40% to 60% and based on their success during COVID-19, mRNA vaccines can have much higher efficacies.

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