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Pfizer to Develop MRNA Shingles Vaccine with BioNTech

shingles vaccine pfizer biontech mrna
Pfizer and BioNTech are developing an MRNA shingles vaccine. Credit: Marco Verch/Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY-SA 2.0

Pfizer and BioNTech announced on Wednesday that they will work together to develop an MRNA vaccine for the viral infection called shingles.

The pharmaceutical companies worked together to create the world’s first fully-approved MRNA vaccine for the coronavirus in 2020.

They intend to use the same mRNA science to create a vaccine for shingles, an extremely painful viral infection that causes rashes on the body and even nerve damage. Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same one that causes chicken pox.

Shingles vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech in development

Those who have had chicken pox as a child still have traces of the virus in their bodies. It lays dormant in tissue near the brain and can reactivate as shingles.

Shingles mainly impacts older people and those with weakened immune systems, but can appear in anyone who has had chicken pox. Doctors estimate that one third of all people will have or have had shingles in their lifetime.

Chicken pox, and therefore shingles, can be prevented with the varicella vaccine, which was first made commercially available in 1984.

Pfizer and BioNTech’s shingles vaccine could help bring more peace of mind to all of those who had chickenpox before the varicella vaccine was made available, or all those who did not have access to it.

Shingrix, the second shingles vaccine to hit the market, is currently in use, while Zostavax, the first shingles vaccine, was withdrawn from the US market over concerns that it wasn’t effective enough.

The companies are set to begin trials for their mRNA shingles vaccine in late 2022.

mRNA technology

Most vaccines take years, if not decades, to be produced, but Pfizer’s Covid-19 shot was developed in just 10 months.

This short timeline is due to the strides made in mRNA technology, which has been researched since the 1980s.

Rather than providing the body with a weakened or small dose of virus in order to help it build immunity against the illness, like in standard vaccines, mRNA vaccines send synthetic copies of the virus’ RNA to the body, allowing it to build immunity.

Despite the fact that this mRNA technology has been studied for years, the Covid-19 vaccine is the first such shot to use the innovative method.

Many false claims have circulated across the internet argue that mRNA vaccines change people’s DNA, which is impossible. After decades of research, it has been confirmed that this type of shot if very safe and effective.

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