Unlike other vaccines, influenza shots are administered yearly, yet offer generally lower protection than most routinely recommended vaccines, from as low as 10 percent to as high as 60 percent. This season's flu jab was only 16 percent effective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Now, major pharmaceuticals are hoping to change the shot's underwhelming protection and the current flu manufacturing process with the messenger RNA (mRNA) technology platform.
Dr. Robert Malone, who helped invent the mRNA vaccine technology, said that flu shots are a “significant commercial market in the United States” that is annually recommended to “drive a market need so that the manufacturing plants can be kept running and certified” in the possibility that an outbreak similar to the 1918 influenza pandemic should occur.
“The government wants to be able to ensure that they always have enough influenza capacity in case the bad thing happens,” Malone told The Epoch Times. “So the way they do that is they create market incentives for manufacturers to produce seasonal influenza vaccines, even though we don’t really need them.”
Fortune Business Insights, offering market studies and consultation services, reported that the flu vaccines generated about $5.86 billion in 2020 and $6.59 billion globally in 2021, and is projected to grow to $10.73 billion in 2028 at a CAGR [compound annual growth rate] of 7.2 percent.
Differentiating itself from its competitors, Seqirus is developing flu vaccine candidates based on the next generation of mRNA technology, self-amplifying messenger RNA (sa-mRNA).
Like mRNA vaccines that instruct the cells in the body to make a protein that stimulates the immune response to build up immunity, sa-mRNA also “instructs the body to replicate mRNA, amplifying the amount of protein made.”
Seqirus said it would begin clinical trials of its seasonal and pandemic flu vaccine candidates in the second half of 2022.
In addition to the inferior antibody productions, all three various doses of Moderna’s vaccine elicited more adverse events compared to placebo in both the 18 to 49 age group and those 50 and older.
In the 100 microgram dose (which is the same dose used in its COVID-19 vaccine), Malone said that “90 percent of the people in this study developed adverse events compared to 30 percent in the control group. Of those adverse events, a large fraction of them was grade 3 out of 4, grade 4 being deaths or hospitalizations.”
He added, “So what we learned was that the toxicity associated with the mRNA tech that’s being deployed globally right now, it’s not just due to the spike protein … but it’s also due to the underlying components.”
EffectivenessThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that this season’s flu vaccine offered very little protection against mild to moderate influenza illness.
Breaking it further down, however, we see that of the 18 seasons that the CDC has been tracking vaccine efficacy, only one season (2010–11) was 60 percent. Whereas in eight seasons, it was around 40 percent to 56 percent, and seven seasons saw lower than 40 percent effectiveness, with the lowest being 10 percent in 2004–05.
The CDC did not publish a report for the 2008–09 season but claimed that the vaccine effectiveness was 41 percent, and for 2020–21, the federal agency said it did not estimate the effectiveness of the shot because there was “low flu virus circulation” during that season.
This season’s flu shot has been updated to include four different virus components that are either inactivated or live-attenuated. Two of the components consist of subtypes of the influenza A virus, and the other two are lineages of the influenza B virus.
Experts say that this season's low vaccine efficacy stems from a mismatch between the vaccine virus components and the circulating viruses. Yet Moderna shows that even in “well-matched years (≥90% matching), efficacy for all subjects ranges from 38-60%” noting that lower efficacy values less than 40 percent may be due in part to egg-adaptations.
Evolution of Flu VaccinesThe flu vaccine was initially developed for American soldiers in the 1940s and upon its approval in 1945, it became available for the general public a year later. But it wasn’t until 1964 when the vaccine was specifically recommended by federal health authorities to individuals at high risk for flu complications. Flu shots were later expanded to include people in contact with high-risk patients in 1986.
“The movement toward a universal recommendation for vaccination did not occur primarily as a result of a preponderance of newly published evidence; rather, changes were made in part on the basis of expert and organizational opinion,” the authors wrote.
"Furthermore, the ACIP [Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices] have not always accurately reflected the evidence used to support the recommendations and routinely have cited studies with suboptimal methodology (eg. that use serology as an endpoint for infection among [trivalent inactivated vaccine] recipients) as supportive," they added.
ACIP, established in 1964, is a committee within the CDC, consisting of experts from the medical and public health fields, that makes recommendations on how to use vaccines.
The authors found that the flu vaccine probably had a “small protective effect against influenza and ILI [influenza-like illness] (moderate-certainty evidence), as 71 people would need to be vaccinated to avoid one influenza case, and 29 would need to be vaccinated to avoid one case of ILI.”
They also added, “Vaccination may have little or no appreciable effect on hospitalizations (low-certainty evidence) or number of working days lost.”