Two groups of American researchers recently announced progress in their efforts to create a single flu vaccine. The goal is to find a universal vaccine that will offer broader coverage against all types of influenza each season. It’s possible such a vaccine would even provide long-term protection, preparing our immune systems to fight off the flu for many seasons.
The challenge in developing such a vaccine has been the flu virus’ ability to mutate quickly. Even slight changes to a virus may interfere with our body’s ability to control it before it makes us sick. This newly reported single vaccine research focuses on a protein called hemagglutinin, which all influenza virus strains have in common.
“There’s a lot of research going on looking at some of these other options, in terms of our target for the influenza vaccine,” said Dr. Pritish Tosh, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist. Tosh, who is also a member of the Vaccine Research Group at Mayo Clinic, says the new avenues of investigation are definitely needed. However, he cautions, the single flu vaccine has only been tested in animals and is not yet available. So he urges everyone to get immunized with the safe and proven vaccines that we already have.
“Influenza is a real killer. It kills tens of thousands of Americans each year, either directly or through its complications. And we really only have one great way in terms of prevention and that is with (the current) influenza vaccine.”