CHESTERFIELD, Mo. – As with Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines, St. Louis will play a big role in developing new flu vaccines.   

Clinical Research Professionals (CRP) in Chesterfield is looking for hundreds of volunteers for Pfizer’s flu vaccine clinical trials. Researchers said they learned a lot from the COVID-19 trials in 2020 and 2021. What they learned may actually help out with the flu. The clinical trials for the new flu vaccine will start in two weeks.

“We’ve learned a lot of lessons with the COVID vaccine studies,” said Marianne Tow, CRP’s director. “That was an exciting thing. St. Louis was very well represented in those trials. Our center was the highest enrolling site in the United States… we had hundreds more on the waiting list.”  

The goal is to come up with more flu vaccines that work better. Carol Burcke said people can be hesitant to take flu shots because there are multiple vaccines for multiple flu strains. She said matching the right vaccine with the right strain is not a guaranteed thing.   

“I just think there’s so many strains of flu. It doesn’t cover all of them. You’re bound to get the flu anyway,” Burcke said.   

“I believe in science. I think it’s worth taking if it helps with certain strains,” said Anne Jordan.

Jordan said she admitted there was room for improvement with flu vaccines.   

The new vaccines being tested in the trial will use mRNA technology like the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. The traditional vaccines will use a tiny amount of actual virus (usually weakened or killed) to trigger the body to fight infection. 

The mRNA vaccines teach muscle cells how to make a virus’s “spike protein,” but only the protein, to trigger the body’s immune response. The proteins never enter a cell’s nucleus. The mRNA vaccines can be more effective with less risk. They can also be quickly manufactured in labs with no need to reproduce actual virus strains. Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine became available within five months of the CRP clinical trials in Chesterfield. As with COVID-19, these new trials may be “game-changers” for fighting flu.   

“(The) mRNA platform can be made quickly and manufactured quickly. Traditional flu vaccines take a lot longer,” Tow said. “The benefit to using the mRNA platform to deliver the flu shot is they can wait until later in the season to find out which flu strains are actually going to be the flu strains that end up hitting our nation’s population. The longer you can wait the more accurate the chances are for picking those strains…there should be better efficacy, potentially.”   

Unlike the COVID-19 vaccine trials, all volunteers will get an actual flu shot, no placebos.   

“Everybody will be receiving a flu vaccine,” Tow said. “You just might get the investigational one or you might get the standard of care one that you can get at your doctor’s office or pharmacy.”   

Jordan said she would sign up for the trials.  

“I would. I would. I believe in vaccines. The stuff happening with polio is just killing me,” she said.   

You can learn more and sign up to be a volunteer at www.clinicalresearchprofessionals.net.