Exploring the Potential and Challenges of mRNA Technology in Revolutionizing Flu Vaccines

December 5, 2023

The article discusses the potential of mRNA technology, popularized during the COVID-19 pandemic, in revolutionizing flu vaccines. Traditional flu vaccines, often produced in hen’s eggs, could see a significant change with mRNA technology, with pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer, Moderna, GSK, and Sanofi exploring this avenue. This shift comes as COVID-19 vaccine sales decline, presenting an opportunity to improve the flu vaccine market.

One significant advantage of mRNA flu vaccines is their production speed. Unlike traditional methods, mRNA vaccines don’t require virus growth, allowing quicker adaptation to circulating flu strains. This could reduce the mismatch between vaccine strains and actual circulating viruses, a common issue with current flu vaccines. For instance, mRNA technology could enable strain selection closer to the flu season, increasing vaccine effectiveness.

Another benefit of mRNA technology is its potential to respond to flu pandemics. Current egg-based or cell-based vaccine production capacities are inadequate in pandemic scenarios, but mRNA could significantly increase supply.

However, challenges exist. Public acceptance of mRNA vaccines has waned, and their side effect profile may deter some people. Additionally, the cost of mRNA vaccines could be higher than traditional flu shots, making market entry challenging in an already crowded field. Pfizer and Moderna, for example, are unlikely to target the lower-priced segment of the flu vaccine market.

There’s also interest in combination vaccines that target flu, Covid, and RSV. However, questions remain about the vaccination frequency for these diseases and whether they align well for combination shots.

Finally, experts hope mRNA technology will lead to more advanced flu vaccines, offering broader and longer-lasting protection rather than merely replicating the effectiveness of existing vaccines. Pursuing improved vaccines could mean a longer path to market but could offer a more impactful solution.

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[Source: STAT, December 5th, 2023]

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