When you get a flu shot in as soon as five years, your doctor might be offering a version that would pack years-long protection against the viral infection that sickens thousands every winter.
Several prospects for the dreamed-of big weapon against flu are showing promise in federal clinical trials, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Washington.
Demand for a universal vaccine escalated this year as the nation struggled through the worst flu season in 10 years.
“I’ve made a universal influenza vaccine one of my top priorities,” Fauci told The Cincinnati Enquirer this week in one of more than a dozen interviews he’s given this flu season assuring Americans that the search is on for a better answer to the flu. He also is scheduled to testify before Congress in early March about the push.
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“It’s going to be an iterative process with a gradually improving version of the vaccine,” Fauci said. “It will be a long time before we have a vaccine that covers every single potential strain of flu.
“But before we get there, we’ll have universal influenza vaccine 1.0 that will cover some major strains, and we’ll get that in five years or so,” he said. “Then a few years later, we’ll have universal influenza vaccine 2.0.”
Dr. Carl Fichtenbaum, a University of Cincinnati Health infectious-disease specialist who closely watches flu in the Cincinnati area, said he doesn’t want the distant possibility of a universal vaccine to dissuade people from getting the yearly shot.
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“It’s what we need, but it is probably a while away yet,” he said. “I think we’ve been very successful with the annual vaccine. But because (flu) changes and shifts every year, we haven’t been able to find a universal target.”
Influenza is a wily creature with dozens of varieties. The strains take turns predominating every season, which is Oct. 1 to March 30.
This year, a fierce version called H3N2 took hold, and by early January, the illness was widespread and severe in all 50 states. The effect was particularly hard on children; 114 have died so far in this outbreak, federal officials reported Friday.
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In late winter every year, federal authorities make an educated guess about the flu strain that will circulate the following season. Based on that guess, drug makers manufacture seasonal vaccines to meet the coming year’s flu.
Sometimes, the researchers guess right, and the vaccine’s effectiveness approaches 65%. However, this year’s seasonal vaccine delivered only 35% effectiveness against all flu strains.
But even with low effectiveness, the flu shot can cut your risk of getting flu and can help reduce the severity if you get sick. Plus, the more people who get the flu shot, no matter its effectiveness, the more the population is protected against infection from the virus.
Source by usatoday..