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US will pay Moderna $176 million to develop a bird flu pandemic vaccine

Federal health officials stress that the risk of bird flu cases to the wider population remains low.
H5N1 experimental influenza vaccine.
Posted at 10:47 AM, Jul 02, 2024

The U.S. government will pay the vaccine maker Moderna $176 million to develop a pandemic vaccine that could be used to treat bird flu, caused by the H5N1 virus, in humans as cases in dairy cows continue to mount across the country, federal officials announced Tuesday.

Moderna will launch trials to test the safety and effectiveness of a vaccine that could be used to scale up a response to a bird flu pandemic if needed.

The H5N1 bird flu virus was detected earlier this year in dairy cows and has spread to more than 132 herds in 12 states. It's the first time the bird flu virus has impacted dairy cows, but it is commonly found in other mammals each year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest data, the bird flu virus has only infected three people to date, all of whom had interacted with infected cows or poultry. The human cases were mild.

Federal health officials stress that the risk to the wider population remains low.

The CDC said it is assisting the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services with a bird flu seroprevalence study of individuals exposed to sick cows to determine if there has been asymptomatic infection with the H5N1 bird flu virus among people, if certain jobs might increase risk of exposure and how personal protective equipment can protect against infection.

Related Story: FDA shares research plans as it continues to monitor bird flu outbreak

The funds for the potential pandemic vaccine are targeted for release through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and will pay for continued development of a vaccine that uses the same mRNA technology that allowed rapid development and rollout of vaccines to protect against COVID-19.

The award was made through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, a program that focuses on medical treatments for potential pandemics.