Bird Flu Outbreak Prompts US Funding for H5N1 Vaccine Trials 

United States: The US government is on the verge of a deal to finance phase 3 trials of a pandemic H5N1 bird flu mRNA vaccine developed by Moderna, as the country faces an outbreak of the virus in cattle and poultry farms, the Financial Times reported Thursday. 

More about the News 

According to the Financial Times, “several tens of millions of dollars” will be provided by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) next month, and the fund may reach up to the federal level, as reported. 

The other thing that was agreed with the federal agency is that the agency would purchase a certain number of doses if the trials are positive. 

The government has also reportedly held a meeting with Pfizer, another pharma company that also developed the m-RNA COVID-19 vaccines, on the development of a vaccine against the H5 flu strains. 

Moderna had indicated that it is working on H5 flu vaccines and the Financial Times has reported that the early results of this trial are forthcoming. 

Bird Flu Outbreak Prompts US Funding for H5N1 Vaccine Trials. Credit | Getty Images
Bird Flu Outbreak Prompts US Funding for H5N1 Vaccine Trials. Credit | Getty Images

About the currently available Bird Flu vaccine 

Bird flu vaccines for humans are already available, which are FDA approved. The federal government has also procured thousands of doses of vaccines, particularly of the H5N1 strain, as reported. 

In the worst-case scenario, it will be possible to supply more than 100 million doses, which is enough for 50 million people, within three to four months. However, the efficacy of these vaccines for the H5N1 strain, which is currently prevalent, is expected to be low. 

About the pandemic flu vaccine 

According to David Boucher, the director of infectious disease preparedness at the Department of Health and Human Services, the government has put out a request for proposals for mRNA pandemic flu vaccine, and these products can be quickly adjusted to combat new viral strains. The US Department of Agriculture, for instance, has also begun a trial of H5N1 animal-specific vaccines in 2023. 

H5N1 virus detection in dairy cows 

USDA detected H5N1 infections in 67 dairy cow herds across nine states, namely Texas, Kansas, New Mexico, Michigan, Idaho, North Carolina, South Dakota, Ohio, and Colorado, as of Wednesday. 

Moreover, two such infections were also detected in humans, which were linked to dairy cattle. The first one was detected in a Texas dairy farmer in April, while the second one was found in a worker from a Michigan dairy farm, as reported last week. 

In both cases, a rare pink eye infection in milder form was also recorded. 

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the bird flu outbreak among dairy cattle has raised concerns, however the risk posed to human yet remains “low.”