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Pfizer, BioNTech testing mRNA flu vaccine using COVID-19 as guide

Flu season is approaching in the U.S. and that has health officials across the board worried. Not only because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Delta and Mu variants, and possibility of having a twin-demic, but that five million people around the world get serious cases of flu each season. Have you gotten your flu shot yet?

While masking was viewed as a major success in 2020 against the common flu – it won’t be as widely adopted in 2021, which is prompting a new approach to vaccination.

Flu shots have been around for decades – almost 100 years, in fact – but the vaccine varies in effectiveness each year. Now, clinical trials are taking place, which were inspired by the coronavirus pandemic.

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“We’re very hopeful that using this technique we can improve flu vaccine efficacy, Dr. Ann Falsey told News10NBC. She’s professor of infectious disease and co-director of vaccine and treatment evaluation unit at URMC. Pfizer and BioNTech are using mRNA technology associated with the COVID-19 vaccine and applying it to the flu vaccine.

mRNA are the instructions used by the body to distribute proteins to different parts. It was an integral part to the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Your body is tricked into thinking you have the infection but you don’t and it makes antibodies against that messenger RNA, which is now translated into a protein and that’s what’s so clever about this is you can do that with any virus,” Falsey added.

The bottom line is that there’s plenty of room for improvement in the flu vaccine, which is commonly administered each fall.

“I don’t think we expect to see brand new flu strains,” Falsey continued. “We do expect, at some point, all the usual suspects will be back, and there is a concern that because it’s been almost completely suppressed for 18 months that people will be a little less immune because they didn’t get it last year,”

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