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Upstate Medical University

Upstate seeks volunteers for new clinical trial testing seasonal flu vaccine

Upstate Medical University is seeking volunteers for a clinical trial involving a new flu vaccine similar to the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, which could be more effective in combatting seasonal flu.

Upstate is working with Pfizer to study a new mRNA-based flu vaccine, which is the same technology that was used in the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Upstate is seeking trial participants between the ages of 65 and 85, who are healthy and have no prior history of heart disease and have not yet received a flu shot yet this year.

“The mRNA Flu Vaccine Study will help us learn if an investigational vaccine is safe and can help the body produce antibodies which may help fight off the flu,” according to the Upstate Institute for Global Health and Translational Science, which is heading up the trial. “The flexibility of RNA technology and its rapid manufacturing could allow better strain match, greater reliability of supply, and higher efficacy against influenza.”

Flu causes up to five million cases of severe illness and between 300,000 and 600,000 deaths worldwide each year. According to the study, “current seasonal vaccines offer 40% to 60% protection against circulating strains in seasons when the vaccine strains match circulating influenza virus strains and lower protection in vaccine mismatch years.”

Details on the trial include:

  • All visits will take place at Upstate Community Hospital, 4900 Broad Road, Syracuse.
  • The trial involves six in-person visits over two months and a phone call appointment at six months.
  • Visits include a screening visit, an EKG at the first four visits and blood draws.
  • Participants are required to complete an e-diary on a smartphone app; phones are provided to those without one.
  • Participants are compensated for each completed visit.

Upstate Medical University infectious disease physician-scientist Stephen J. Thomas, MD, is director for Upstate’s Institute for Global Health. Thomas is also the coordinating principal investigator for the late-stage Pfizer/BioNTech global vaccine trial and the principal investigator at Upstate.

“Influenza can be a very severe disease and with a reduction in the use of masks and physical distancing, we expect flu to make a comeback this season,” Thomas said. “We have to keep searching for improved flu vaccines and we are glad to be part of this development effort with Pfizer.”

To participate in this clinical trial, contact the Upstate Institute for Global Health and Translational Science at 315-464-9869 or email [email protected].