mRNA vaccines have gained significant attention due to their application in protecting against COVID-19 in humans. This has garnered interest in exploring the potential of mRNA vaccines for livestock, with researchers examining their benefits and potential risks. Because this is a new topic, we’ve been getting a lot of questions from our customers. We wanted to provide an overview of the status of mRNA vaccines in livestock and discuss some of the risks and opportunities surrounding their use.
We are ranchers, not biotechnology scientists. Usually, we do not provide views on topics beyond our immediate expertise; however, there seems to have been a significant amount of false information floating around social media on the mRNA topic, so we thought it beneficial to do a bit of digging and provide a considered view based on reputably sourced public information. We’ve taken the time to provide clickable citations for our claims so that you can learn more about the topic if you so desire.
None of our livestock have been vaccinated with mRNA vaccines (… mRNA vaccines are not commercially available as you will read below).
At Acabonac Farms we purchase livestock that have been vaccinated (with traditional vaccines), although for the past many years we have not boosted any of these vaccines. As our soil health continues to strengthen and our forage grows denser and more diversified, we’ve simply found that boosting vaccines was not necessary. We do not expect this to change going forward. Nevertheless, most livestock in the U.S. are vaccinated and regularly boosted. We certainly do not have any issue with producers that vaccinate their livestock.
mRNA Vaccines: How They Work
mRNA vaccines work by introducing a small piece of genetic material called messenger RNA (mRNA) into the body. This mRNA contains the instructions to produce a protein that resembles a part of the virus or bacteria the vaccine aims to protect against. The immune system then recognizes this protein as foreign, mounts an immune response, and develops a memory of the invader, helping the body fight off future infections.
Potential Benefits of mRNA Vaccines in Livestock
mRNA vaccines hold promise in animal health, offering several potential benefits compared to traditional vaccines:
- Speed of development: mRNA vaccines can be designed and produced more quickly than traditional vaccines, potentially allowing for a faster response to emerging diseases.
- Flexibility: The mRNA technology can be easily adapted to target various pathogens, making it a versatile tool in fighting multiple diseases.
- Safety: mRNA vaccines do not use live viruses or bacteria, reducing the risk of causing disease in the vaccinated animal.
Risks and Arguments Against mRNA Vaccines in Livestock
Despite the promising aspects of mRNA vaccines, there are concerns that warrant further investigation:
- Stability and storage: mRNA is inherently unstable and can degrade quickly if not properly stored, which may pose challenges in vaccine distribution and storage.
- Delivery systems: Efficient delivery of the mRNA to the targeted cells is crucial for the vaccine's effectiveness. Developing safe and effective delivery systems for livestock may require additional research.
- Long-term effects: Since mRNA vaccines are a relatively new technology, their long-term effects on animal health are not yet fully understood.
Current Status of mRNA Vaccines for Livestock
As of now, mRNA vaccines have primarily been developed and used for human health, with their most notable use in protecting against COVID-19. Though mRNA vaccines for livestock are still in the research and trial phase, the success in human vaccines has accelerated interest and research in applying mRNA technology to animal health.
According to a recent update, the FDA is expected to approve the first mRNA vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) later this year. While this development concerns human health, it further highlights the potential of mRNA vaccines in addressing various diseases, potentially paving the way for their application in livestock in the future.
As farmers concerned about the health of our animals and the quality of the meat we produce it is important for us and our customers to stay informed about the latest developments and evaluate the safety and efficacy of mRNA vaccines for livestock as researchers continue to study this technology.
To reiterate, as of now there is no commercially available mRNA vaccine available for livestock – as such none of our animals have been administered this vaccine.