The scientist behind Pfizer’s Covid vaccine says a flu pandemic is only a matter of time

Even after leading the charge combating the worst pandemic in a century, vaccine researcher Kathrin Jansen doesn’t feel that she can relax. Another pandemic — this one based on an influenza virus — is inevitable, Jansen said at the annual STAT Summit on Tuesday.

“Before SARS-CoV-2, we had worried about pandemic flu. And just because corona came first doesn’t mean flu is just sitting there,” Jansen, who recently retired as head of vaccine R&D at Pfizer, told STAT senior writer Helen Branswell.

An influenza-based pandemic is only a matter of time, Jansen added: “The question is, does it come tomorrow or 50 years from now?”

She called for better global surveillance of viruses and communication infrastructure so that, when a new and highly transmissible or dangerous flu virus does emerge, scientists and policymakers learn about it and can respond as quickly as possible.

Jansen made the comments during a panel conversation alongside Jacqueline Miller, therapeutic area head for infectious disease at Moderna, who joined the company in May 2020 and worked to develop the company’s Covid vaccine.

Both scientists emphasized just how challenging it was to create mRNA vaccines at such a frantic pace. Balancing unprecedented speed with safety created a need to constantly reevaluate data, said Miller.

“We had some difficult conversations about the best way to do this. What’s the best way to make sure we’re seeing data before we take that next step, but keeping in mind people are dying every day,” she said. “I got pushed every day: What can you do differently?”

Branswell asked Miller and Jansen if they had any ”oh shit” moments during this time. “Only every day,” replied Miller.

Back in March 2020, Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said a Covid-19 vaccine would be available within 12 to 18 months. Even the scientists tasked with creating these shots were unconvinced such a timeline was possible.

SAource: STAT. Click here for the link to the full story


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