2024's Election Game-Changer: Will New Bird Flu Vaccine Hype Win Over Voters Again?

By Javier Sanchez | Wednesday, 29 May 2024 08:30 AM
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Image Credit : Getty Images

In a striking echo of the past, the federal government is once again investing heavily in vaccine development, reminiscent of the Operation Warp Speed initiative launched four years ago.

This program, aimed at expediting the creation of a COVID-19 vaccine, resulted in the successful development of vaccines by pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Moderna. Interestingly, the announcement of successful trials coincided with the aftermath of the presidential election.

However, the COVID-19 vaccines did not halt the virus as initially promised, leading to a series of booster shots for those who continue to trust in the vaccine's efficacy. Despite this, the government continues to spend exorbitantly on the vaccine for Medicare and Medicaid recipients, even as the vaccine's effectiveness versus risk remains debatable for most healthy individuals.

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As reported by Barron's last week, Moderna and Pfizer are currently in discussions with the federal government about the development of an avian flu vaccine. This news has triggered a significant surge in vaccine-related stocks. Moderna confirmed its ongoing discussions with the government about "advancing our pandemic flu candidate," leading to a 13.7% spike in its stock price, as reported by Barron's.

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While Pfizer has yet to respond to Barron's, a Health and Human Services official confirmed that discussions were underway. "We continue to have active conversations with both manufacturers, and the negotiations are ongoing," said Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary of preparedness and response at HHS, according to Barron's. "We are looking to wrap this up and have something to say very soon."

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O’Connell also revealed that the agency had begun the process of converting 4.8 million doses of avian influenza vaccine from bulk product in the government's stockpile to finished doses ready for administration. She assured that this move would not affect the government's ability to provide seasonal flu shots.

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This development comes in the wake of three confirmed cases of avian flu in humans in the United States, two months after the virus was detected in dairy cattle. Despite this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains that the current public health risk remains low.

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However, the American taxpayers, who have already spent over $30 billion on the development and acquisition of the COVID vaccines, may not be thrilled about this development. With the pandemic now over, the government has begun paying over $80 for each booster from Moderna and Pfizer, according to a report by Stat last September.

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The major vaccine makers saw a significant rise in their stock market values last week, with Moderna's stock increasing by over 23 percent, as reported by the Motley Fool. This surge followed the detection of avian flu in an individual in Australia.

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The question remains whether this investment is justified. Unlike COVID-19, which spread rapidly, the likelihood of a mass pandemic due to avian flu seems low, as per the CDC. However, the development of a new vaccine could appeal to those who continue to adhere to strict health measures, such as double masking.

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The reintroduction of vaccination as a central issue for American voters may be the only universally pleasing aspect of the current situation for the left. Independent and conservative voters may be more skeptical, but with his current standing in the polls, President Joe Biden will likely welcome any support he can garner.

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