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10 June 2024

The Potential Impact of Combination Vaccines on Public Health

By Francesca Ceddia, Chief Medical Affairs Officer, Moderna
Combination Vaccines

As pioneers in mRNA technology, our team at Moderna feels a responsibility to obsess over innovation – from the science behind our products, to delivery methods, to simplifying manufacturing and storage – all to optimize the practitioner and patient experience. Since our beginning, we’ve rejected the idea of complacency – there’s always another advancement to chase. Our pursuit of investigational combination respiratory vaccines is an example of that chase.

Society already benefits from combination vaccines, such as TDaP and MMR, which both protect against three diseases at once. Combination vaccines are associated with improved vaccination coverage and adherence to immunization schedules. Now, the idea that we could simultaneously vaccinate against two respiratory diseases associated with the largest disease burden in their category could open up a world of compounding public health benefits. There is a need for innovative approaches to protect our most vulnerable against diseases like COVID-19 and flu, as well as a potential opportunity to redefine the burden of respiratory season and advance public health. A combination vaccine that could provide dual protection in a single shot has the potential to encourage more widespread vaccination uptake while also reducing the burden of acute respiratory disease on health systems.

An opportunity to improve public health

As of May 2024, the uptake of the 2023/2024 influenza vaccine was more than double that of the updated COVID-19 vaccine for adults over the age of 18 in the U.S. (48.4% vs. 22.4%), and this is also true for many other countries around the world. And yet, COVID-19 hospitalizations rates were higher than influenza across the board, but especially among older adults, where the number of COVID-19 related hospitalizations rate was more than double.

The convenience that a combination vaccine could offer patients may help fill this gap while simplifying and routinizing vaccination against both diseases, which could help improve compliance with public health recommendations. The co-administration of flu and COVID-19 vaccines has the potential to improve vaccine uptake and convenience, and combination vaccines could take that one step further. With the possible increase in coverage rates, the hope is we could see those benefits reflected in broader public health advancements, such as lower rates of severe outcomes.

Supporting providers and health systems

In addition to the convenience of fewer shots, combination vaccines could reduce the burden of a busy respiratory virus season on doctor’s practices and pharmacies. With fewer individual COVID-19 and flu shots to administer, healthcare professionals may regain time to see and serve additional patients. Additionally, acute viral respiratory diseases lead to high resource utilization across healthcare systems. The potential for improved vaccine compliance and decreasing incidences of severe outcomes like hospitalization could lessen these stressors and the costs associated with the typical influx of patients during respiratory illness season.

Our commitment to innovation

The prospect of improving the patient and provider experience, and public health more broadly, serves as our motivation as we continue to investigate our combination respiratory virus vaccines. We look forward to continuing to leverage our mRNA platform to help lead the charge and address the public health needs posed by these viruses.