On Thursday, Pfizer revealed that the first patient had received a dose of the combination vaccine being tested for COVID-19 and influenza.
According to Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, the early-stage research will look at the shot’s safety, tolerability, and capacity to elicit an immunological response. The shot is a modified version of Pfizer’s COVID-19 shot that is intended to compete with the omicron variety.
Such a shot “may simplify immunization practices against these two respiratory viruses, perhaps leading to better vaccine uptake for both diseases,” according to Annaliesa Anderson of Pfizer’s vaccine research and development.
Anderson stated in a statement that “even with current seasonal influenza vaccines, the impact of this virus remains severe around the world, inflicting thousands of deaths and hospitalizations every year.”
As per US News, there will be 180 volunteers in the study, ages 18 to 64. In a statement, BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said, “By combining both indications in a single vaccine strategy, we intend to give individuals an effective means to obtain vaccination against two serious respiratory diseases with changing viruses that require vaccine adaptation.”
The announcement comes as flu cases in the US continue to rise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week verified the first flu-related death of a child.
According to the CDC, at least 6,900 people have been admitted to hospitals with the flu so far this season, which is the highest number ever for this early in the season going back more than ten years.
As the colder weather forces more people indoors, experts fear that low immunity levels and relaxation of COVID-19 mitigation efforts could spark a particularly bad flu season.