February 21, 2024

A woman receives a booster dose of the modern coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at a vaccination center in Antwerp, Belgium, on February 1, 2022.

Johanna Jaylen | Reuters

Patients are now enrolled in early-stage clinical trials to test Universal Flu Vaccine The National Institutes of Health announced Monday that it is based on messenger RNA technology.

Scientists hope the vaccine will protect against multiple flu strains and provide long-term immunity so people don’t have to be vaccinated every year.

Messenger RNA, or mRNA, is the technology behind modern‘sand PfizerWidely used Covid vaccine. The NIH played a crucial role in developing the mRNA platform used by Moderna.

“A universal flu vaccine can serve as an important line of defense against the spread of future influenza pandemics,” Dr. Hugh Auchincloss, acting director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a statement Monday.

The Universal Flu Vaccine Trial will enroll up to 50 healthy people ages 18 to 49 to test whether the experimental shot is safe and produces an immune response, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The study will also include participants who received the quadrivalent influenza vaccine, which protects against four strains of the virus, to compare the experimental universal vaccine with vaccines currently on the market.

The universal vaccine was developed by researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The clinical trial is recruiting volunteers at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

The current generation of flu vaccines provides important protection against hospitalization, but the effectiveness of the vaccines varies widely from year to year.

Scientists now have to predict which flu strain will dominate months in advance so that vaccine makers have time to produce vaccines ahead of the respiratory virus season.

Dominant flu strains can change between when experts choose a strain and when manufacturers roll out a vaccine. In some seasons, the vaccine doesn’t match the circulating strains, so it doesn’t work as well.

When the flu vaccine is well matched to circulating strains, it can reduce the risk of illness by 40% to 60%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But in some years, the vaccine’s effectiveness has been as low as 19 percent because of a mismatch in vaccinations.

From 2010 to 2020, the flu killed 12,000 to 52,000 people a year in the U.S., depending on how well circulating strains and vaccinations matched, according to the CDC.