Pfizer takes big steps with new vaccines

November 02, 2023 | 11:12
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Biopharmaceutical company Pfizer has announced that its two-in-one flu and COVID-19 jab will be moving into a final-stage trial in the coming months, along with the finalisation of the phase-three trials for its mRNA vaccine against influenza for adults.

According to Pfizer, the stage one and two studies of the two-in-one vaccine showed positive results.

Pfizer takes big steps with new vaccines
Senior production manager Ben Mees speaking to journalists about how the vaccines are made

Thanks to this, Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have moved a step closer to potentially receiving regulatory approval for a combination shot for COVID-19 and the flu.

The initial trials were conducted on healthy adults aged 18-64, who showed robust immune responses against influenza A, influenza B, and Sars-CoV-2 strains after getting the combination shot.

Dr. Annaliesa Anderson, senior vice-president and head of vaccine research and development at Pfizer said, “We are encouraged by these early results. This vaccine has the potential to lessen the impact of two respiratory diseases with a single injection and could simplify immunisation practices for providers, patients, and healthcare systems all over the world.”

Pfizer is also finalising the phase-three trials of its mRNA vaccine to protect adults from influenza.

At a meeting with journalists from VIR and those from other Southeast Asian nations on October 24 in Brussels, Dr Julia Spinardi, senior medical director for COVID-19 in emerging markets at Pfizer, said that the trial will evaluate the efficacy, safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity of the mRNA influenza vaccine.

Pfizer takes big steps with new vaccines

“The phase-three trial has been conducted only in the United States to take advantage of the flu season there. We had around 36,000 participants at more than 200 sites, and we are expecting to have results soon to present to the Food and Drug Administration,” she shared.

Dr. Mark Fletcher, Pfizer’s medical and scientific affairs lead for respiratory vaccines, added that every time there is a new technology, scientists try it on influenza.

“Now that we have the mRNA technology, which has been profoundly important for COVID-19, it has kicked off mRNA programmes and development for Pfizer,” he said.

“One other thing that is remarkable about the mRNA technology is it allows the concept of combination shots with other vaccines. You can actually target different viruses in a single injection with mRNA, and influenza is one of them,” added Fletcher.

Pfizer takes big steps with new vaccines
Southeast Asian journalists visiting Pfizer’s manufacturing plant in Puurs, Belgium

At the 41st Annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in January, Pfizer’s chairman and chief executive Albert Bourla said that the company could be ready to launch the two-in-one vaccine in 2024.

Now, people tend to hesitate to get booster doses, as COVID-19 is no longer considered a public health emergency. Experts, however, suggest individuals and governments should pay more attention to this.

Speaking at the Pfizer media meeting, Professor Tikki Pangestu, a visiting professor from the National University of Singapore's Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine said, “New variants can potentially increase the spread of the virus, even in populations with pre-existing immunity. We hope it does not happen, but the virus is unpredictable and can surprise us in ways we do not want, so vaccination should remain a public health priority.”

Dr. Leong Hoe Nam, from the Rophi Clinic in Singapore, added that in this endemic phase, the ground is still fertile for both infection and miscommunication, with misinformation stemming from social media causing hesitancy among some.

“Vaccine hesitancy continues to be a major concern. To fight this, we need to provide access to accurate, scientifically proven information to stave off misinformation on social media. We also need to debunk the lies and fake news,” he stated.

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By Bích Thuy from Belgium

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