Pfizer and BioNTech announced it is working on a combined COVID-19 and flu vaccine as it began trials this week.
The companies said that 180 U.S. adults ages 18-64 are part of the Phase 1 study. It administered the first dose of the combined vaccine this week.
The vaccine combines Pfizer’s quadrivalent modRNA-based influenza vaccine candidate with the companies’ omicron-adapted bivalent COVID-19 vaccine, Pfizer and BioNTech said.
Currently, flu shots are recommended for nearly all people over ages 6 months of age. The updated COVID-19 boosters are intended for those ages 12 and up who had two previous doses of the COVID-19 shot.
While flu vaccinations have become a yearly ritual for many, it’s still not certain whether COVID-19 vaccines will be administered similarly. Some health officials have suggested it’s likely COVID-19 vaccines will be needed annually to guard against waning immunity from past infections and shots.
“By combining both indications in one vaccine approach, we aim to provide individuals with an efficient way to receive immunization against two severe respiratory diseases with evolving viruses that require vaccine adaptation,” said Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech. “The data will also provide us with more insights on the potential of mRNA vaccines addressing more than one pathogen. This will help us to further develop our infectious disease pipeline to deliver on patient centric vaccination approaches.”
According to the Food and Drug Administration, the purpose of Phase 1 trials is to study the vaccine’s safety and dosage. About 70% of these trials go onto Phase 2, which studies efficacy and side effects.
Only about one in three Phase 2 trials make it to Phase 3, which studies adverse reactions and involve a larger pool of participants. Only about one in four studies make it to the final phase, which studies the drug or vaccine in people with diseases and conditions.