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Next-generation mRNA vaccines will be easier to use: Moderna CEO

Moderna (MRNA) is working on two new vaccines that will be easier for clinicians and pharmacists to administer and won't require the same multi-step thawing process that has slowed down the latest COVID-19 booster rollout.

CEO Stéphane Bancel told Yahoo Finance, in an exclusive interview Wednesday, that the company's standalone flu and its combination COVID and flu vaccines will both be "refrigerator-stable" — an industry term used for vaccines that won't spoil for several months in normal fridge temperature of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (35.6°F to 46.4°F).

The original 2020 formula for mRNA vaccines required ultra-frozen storage conditions, up to -25 degrees Celsius, and both Moderna and competitor duo Pfizer (PFE) and BioNTech (BNTX) were eventually able to test and ensure the doses would stay fresh in the refrigerator.

"This new generation of mRNA products is going to be stable in fridge storage, not freezer anymore. [And] they will all be available in pre-filled syringes," Bancel added.

The pre-filled syringes will also apply to the RSV vaccine for older adults, for which Moderna is awaiting FDA approval.

Boxes containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the McKesson distribution center in Olive Branch, Miss., Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, Pool)
Boxes containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the McKesson distribution center in Olive Branch, Miss., Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, Pool) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

"With the aging population, it's harder and harder to find technicians and pharmacists, so the pharmacy leadership [is] clear that they really like those easy-to-use product formulas. I think Moderna is going to be very well-positioned," Bancel said.

Fridge-stable vaccines are popular for use globally for childhood immunization campaigns. But still, remote parts of the world, as well as areas that face extreme heat, need more. The industry has not been able to produce heat-stable vaccines — vaccines that would survive without refrigerators — despite pleas from public health advocates for more than a decade to do so.

Still, the next generation of mRNA vaccines will prove more accessible, compared to the struggle to get doses in arms globally in the middle of the pandemic in areas where the infrastructure was not in place to receive the ultra-frozen shipments.

Follow Anjalee on Twitter @AnjKhem.

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