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mRNA Technology Offers Hope for Flu Vaccine Advancements

Black woman wearing face mask with sleeve up, bandage from vaccination, giving thumbs up
Posted on August 5, 2021
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The COVID-19 pandemic made vaccines a daily topic in news, popular culture, and even conversations among friends. Messenger RNA (mRNA) technology in particular was thrust in the spotlight as two COVID-19 vaccines using mRNA, from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, were authorized for emergency use by the FDA.

mRNA vaccines are a new approach to vaccination, but a technology that has been in development for decades. Recently, several clinical trials have started for mRNA-based flu vaccines. This is exciting news for flu prevention!

How does mRNA work?
mRNA-based vaccines teach your body how to make a specific protein, or even a piece of a protein, that triggers an immune response. The immune response tells your body to create antibodies, which basically teach your body how to fight off the virus.

How do flu vaccines work?
There are different kinds of flu vaccines approved by the FDA.  Flu vaccines are made with different production technologies and some are approved for different age groups. All vaccines must go through in-depth research and clinical trials to ensure they meet strict safety and effectiveness requirements. Flu vaccines available today are egg-based, cell-based or recombinant (genetically engineered).

The flu vaccine contains dead (inactivated) or weakened (attenuated) viruses, or no flu virus at all. The flu vaccine works by causing your body to create antibodies to fight off flu viruses.

What potential benefits are there from an mRNA flu vaccine?
The technology is exciting because mRNA vaccines rely on more easily accessible lab materials and can be created faster than traditional vaccines. Right now, it takes at least six months to make large amounts of flu vaccine. COVID-19 mRNA vaccines have been manufactured faster, in about four months. Pfizer-BioNTech has said they think production of their mRNA COVID-19 vaccine will just take 60 days. This fast production time may allow manufacturers to create more doses, hopefully reaching more people.

In addition, there is hope that eventually, this technology may make it possible to get an annual flu and COVID-19 vaccine together in one shot.

As we eagerly monitor the progress of this research, we remind you that our current flu vaccines are highly effective and our best tool to preventing the flu.

Click here if you’re interested in learning more about mRNA technology or COVID-19 vaccines.

For more information on flu vaccines, check out our FAQs blog post series.

Image courtesy CDC.

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