aRemarkably yet mRNA vaccine success In protecting people from COVID-19, scientists are turning their attention to another annual respiratory scourge: the flu. Both Moderna And Pfizer — makers of the first vaccines to gain FDA approval using mRNA technology — are studying whether subdivision in the genetic material of influenza virus on that platform would be equally productive.
On September 14, Pfizer announce that the first volunteers had received doses of the mRNA flu vaccine; The Phase 3 study will include more than 25,000 US adults aged 18 and older who will be randomly assigned to receive either the experimental vaccine or a placebo. In June, Moderna announce It is in the final phase of its trial of an mRNA-based influenza vaccine that targets the same strains of influenza that are expected to circulate in the fall and winter. Moderna’s study will include 6,000 adults in the United States and other countries in the Southern Hemisphere, who are going through flu season several months earlier than the United States. Both trials are now in similar stages; Neither company has provided a timeline for when they might expect results, and if those results are positive, when they can submit an application to the Food and Drug Administration for approval.
Public health experts hope it won’t be long. The advantage of the mRNA platform is that it is flexible and generalizable. In theory, scientists just need to switch genetic material, or mRNA sequences, from one virus to another. It’s a matter of knowing which specific genes will best activate the immune system – and this is where the researchers have decades of experience with influenza they didn’t have with SARS-CoV-2.
The two companies target the four influenza strains identified by the World Health Organization in february It is most likely to spread during the 2022-2023 influenza season in the Northern Hemisphere. Early studies from both Pfizer and Moderna showed that the mRNA flu vaccine was safe, leading to ongoing late-stage studies that will focus more specifically on proving whether vaccines are effective in protecting people from the flu. Current vaccines, which use decades-old technology that involves growing the influenza virus in chicken eggs, have traditionally been fairly effective. When WHO experts accurately predict and match vaccine strains to the flu strains that end up spreading, vaccines protect people from dangerous diseases. 40%-60% of the time. In years when the match is not tight, the effectiveness of the shot drops to about 20%-30%.
mRNA vaccines should eliminate this mismatch. Because the technology is more flexible, manufacturers can create snapshots with new genetic sequences in about three months or so. This means that if a bad mismatch occurs during a flu season, scientists can produce a new batch of flu mRNA vaccines that target the correct genetic sequences during the same season.. This, in turn, can reduce hospitalizations and deaths caused by influenza, which are still relatively high. The virus causes up to 700,000 hospitalizations and 52,000 deaths in the United States each year.
While the mRNA flu vaccine would be a major advance in vaccine technology, there may be other ways to protect people from respiratory illnesses through combination vaccines. In a separate trial, Moderna is also looking at a combination of vaccines that would immunize people against both SARS-CoV-2 and influenza in one shot.
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