Here's To Science! Pfizer, Moderna Look To Combo Flu/COVID Vaccines

Remember “Here’s to Science,” Pfizer’s first-ever Super Bowl commercial this past February?

The one-minute spot featured depictions of Galileo, Copernicus, Isaac Newton and other legendary scientists lip-synching to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now,” all leading up to the graphic, “Here’s to the next fight.”

Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chief executive officer, acknowledged on Monday that, because the company’s stock price was down at the time, he gave the final sign-off on running the ad (which reportedly cost $14 million) only after lots of consideration.

In the end, Bourla said at Goldman Sachs 45th Annual Global Healthcare Conference, he gave the go-ahead because it was “so important to show the world that we are moving to oncology.” (The ad ran just two months after Pfizer’s 43 billion acquisition of cancer biotech firm Seagen). He also noted the spot’s significance in marking Pfizer’s 175th anniversary.



While Pfizer may have been touting its oncology emphasis in the Super Bowl spot, Bourla did note during his talk that the commercial market for oncology-related pharma is driven more by product performance than by marketing, as opposed to other medical areas. “The selection of a brand compared to another has nothing to do in oncology with the brand equity or if your ad was good,” he said.

Not so for vaccines, where Pfizer continues to slug it out with Moderna on the COVID front, and with both GSK and Moderna in the RSV field.

In the pipeline is a combination COVID/flu vaccine, which Bourla said should help alleviate the situation where 50% of people get the flu vaccine but only 13% the COVID vaccine, with the problem being more dramatic amongst the younger population.

Also speaking at the Goldman Sachs conference, Moderna President Stephen Hoge said that half as many people are getting COVID vaccines as are getting flu vaccines but that company research shows there could be dramatic increases in vaccination rates with a combo vaccine.

“A lot of people just prefer not to get two shots,” he said, “or they’ll prefer to only get a shot in one arm. They don’t want one in both arms.”

Moderna on Monday announced positive phase 3 trial results for its combo vaccine, and Hoge told the conference that the vaccine may be available as early as next year, based on regulatory approval.

Moderna, as well as Pfizer, is also in discussions with the U.S. government about development and supply of a vaccine to combat a potential human-to-human avian flu outbreak, Hoge noted.

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