COVID-19 vaccines pave the way for other mRNA vaccines

COVID-19 vaccines pave the way for other mRNA vaccines

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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) – COVID-19 vaccines are paving the way for new vaccine technology, that could one day help people fight cancer.

It comes down to the mRNA, or messenger RNA, which CHI Infectious Disease Physician Renuga Vivekanandan said teaches cells to make proteins which trigger an immune response, creating antibodies.

Two of the widely accepted COVID-19 vaccines use mRNA technology, Pfizer, the only FDA approved vaccine and Moderna, which is authorized for emergency use.

But now, Meridian Clinical Research is seeing mRNA technology used in other types of vaccines. They’re currently studying an mRNA vaccine for RSV, Epstein Barr Virus and influenza.

Norm Pfieffer is one of the participants in the influenza study.

“They asked me if I wanted to get paid to get my flu shot and I figured that’s better than doing it for free,” Pfieffer said.

He said the new technology is just a bonus.

“I hope this helps create better vaccines for the future,” Pfieffer said.

Dr. Jay Meyer, the principal researcher for Meridan’s new local at the Lincoln Medical Education Partnership, said this is a very exciting time to be involved in clinical research.

10/11 NOW asked if this would be the case if it weren’t for COVID-19.

“I would say absolutely not,” Dr. Meyer said. “mRNA has been around and been tested but widespread acceptance and safety and effectiveness has come to the forefront because of COVID and people being willing to do trials.”

Dr. Vivekanandan said there are many benefits to mRNA technology. One is it can be adapted to be effective against variants or strains. She said this could be especially useful when it comes to influenza vaccines.

“What we struggle with is that it changes so our vaccines are only 50-60% effective, but if we use mRNA there’s a chance you could teach the mRNA against different strains,” she said.

Another benefit is the potential for combination vaccines. Currently a combination influenza and COVID vaccine is being studied.

“It’s hard enough to get people to get vaccines in the winter, people don’t like needles,” Dr. Vivekanandan said. “If we could just combine them so they could get the flu and COVID at a time it would be a great benefit.”

Dr. Meyer said there’s even more benefits, too.

“What they’re finding is they can produce it easier and quicker,” Dr. Meyer said. “What they’re testing for is to see if you’re getting a better antibody response with mRNA as opposed to classic technology which with COVID appears to be the case.”

Other mRNA studies are for cancer, HIV and more.

If you’re interested in participating in a clinical trial with Meridian, you can visit their website.

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