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Human bird flu shot being prepared

Posted on the 6th April 2023

Bird Flu Vaccine

The learning legacy from the COVID-19 vaccine race continues as scientists say they could have a shot to combat bird flu in humans ready in months.

While the risk of transmission from birds to humans remains low, the most recent variation of avian flu has killed unprecedented numbers of wild birds and infected mammals globally.

Humans rarely transmit bird flu. However, there has been a marked increase in birds dying since 2021. Millions have been culled while, in the UK, mammals including foxes have been infected.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, an 11-year-old girl died from bird flu in Cambodia and her father also tested positive.

Last week, executives at GSK Plc, Moderna Inc., and CSL Seqirus revealed they are already developing or are on the cusp of testing human vaccines matching this current strain as a precautionary measure.

Likewise, Sanofi says it is ‘ready’ to begin production if needed.

There is currently no vaccination to prevent avian flu from appearing in birds. However, some vaccine producers have been pushing for this development.

At present, there are almost 20 licensed vaccines against the broader H5 strain of bird flu.

The majority of potential pandemic shots are pre-approved by regulators following human-based trials, with the capacity to produce hundreds of millions of doses in the event of an outbreak.

As with COVID-19, concerns have been expressed that new vaccines could potentially be earmarked for wealthy countries and that, once again, vaccine-rich countries will extend the doses amongst their population before offering supplies out to the most vulnerable.

In February, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) stated that there is currently no evidence that bird flu is transmitting among humans and other mammals more successfully than in previous years.

However, the agency does recommend that, to reduce the chance of exposure to bird flu, people avoid contact with sick or dead wild birds in public areas, including parks and waterways, and wash their hands after feeding wild birds.

Related: Science behind Covid vaccines could fight cancer

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