mRNA vaccines are rapidly emerging as a powerful platform for infectious diseases because they are well tolerated, immunogenic, and scalable and are built on precise but adaptable antigen design. We show that two immunizations of modified non-replicating mRNA encoding influenza H10 hemagglutinin (HA) and encapsulated in lipid nanoparticles (LNP) induce protective HA inhibition titers and H10-specific CD4+ T cell responses after intramuscular or intradermal delivery in rhesus macaques. Administration of LNP/mRNA induced rapid and local infiltration of neutrophils, monocytes, and dendritic cells (DCs) to the site of administration and the draining lymph nodes (LNs). While these cells efficiently internalized LNP, mainly monocytes and DCs translated the mRNA and upregulated key co-stimulatory receptors (CD80 and CD86). This coincided with upregulation of type I IFN-inducible genes, including MX1 and CXCL10. The innate immune activation was transient and resulted in priming of H10-specific CD4+ T cells exclusively in the vaccine-draining LNs. Collectively, this demonstrates that mRNA-based vaccines induce type-I IFN-polarized innate immunity and, when combined with antigen production by antigen-presenting cells, lead to generation of potent vaccine-specific responses.