Biden Admin Paying Moderna $176 Million to Develop Bird Flu Vaccine That Uses Same mRNA Tech as COVID Vaccine

Even as the Biden administration says the human risk of bird flu is low, it is shelling out $176 million to Moderna to develop a vaccine for it.

In a news release, the Department of Health and Human Services said the hefty contract was an exercise in preparedness, using the mRNA technology at the heart of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine to develop one for bird flu, known technically as H5N1.

The release said the goal of the federal infusion of cash was to shorten the timeline to develop a vaccine and control the price of it should it be needed.

“We have successfully taken lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic and used them to better prepare for future public health crises. As part of that, we continue to develop new vaccines and other tools to help address influenza and bolster our pandemic response capabilities,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in the release.


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This is not the only federal response to the potential threat of bird flu, which to date has infected four people since March.

On Wednesday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the fourth case, which it said involved a dairy farm worker in Colorado who worked on a farm where cows tested positive for bird flu.

Of the three people previously reported as being infected, all worked on dairy farms with infected cows. One individual was from Texas. Two were from Michigan.

“Based on the information available at this time, this infection does not change CDC’s current H5N1 bird flu human health risk assessment for the U.S. general public, which the agency considers to be low,” the CDC said.

However, the CDC added a caution.

“People with close or prolonged, unprotected exposures to infected birds or other animals (including livestock), or to environments contaminated by infected birds or other animals, are at greater risk of infection,” it said.


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Moderna is currently testing the mRNA bird flu vaccine, Reuters noted.

Based on the success of those trials, further trials would take place next year.

Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response with HHS, said negotiations for a deal with Pfizer, which also marketed a COVID-19 vaccine, are ongoing.

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Nirav Shah, principal deputy director of the CDC, said “robust discussions” are taking place about pro-actively vaccinating farm workers, but she said no conclusions have been reached.

The federal government has already bought 4.8 million doses of a different vaccine designed to protect against bird flu. The vaccine from CSL Seqirus could be available next month, O’Connell said.

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