Should Scientists Create a Universal Flu Shot?
Scientists across universities have been given $130 million by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to create a universal flu shot, or a shot that attacks the recurring parts of the flu that go unchanged from year to year. This is great news, but it is expected that it will take at least 7 years to curate.
According to the CDC, the 2017-2018 year was the worst flu year in over a decade, and the 2018-2019 season broke records, with the flu remaining active and elevated for over 21 weeks. This was despite the also record breaking 169 million vaccine doses given.
This year’s flu season is expected to be particularly bad as well.
Currently, scientists study the virus early in the year to predict 3-4 strains they think are most likely to hit, then produce a vaccine based on this information. The virus mutates every year, but some parts remain the same. A universal vaccine would target the non-changing parts of the virus.
However, it is unknown if the flu virus will mutate these seemingly unchangeable patterns in response to a universal vaccine.
“To be universal, it would need to be at least as equally effective as the seasonal flu vaccine is now,” Dr. Caesar Djavaherian, a San Francisco Bay Area physician and co-founder of provider Carbon Health, told Healthline. “Of course, the goal would be to make it 100 percent effective, like many other vaccines.”
There may also need to be subtype vaccination given to vulnerable populations yearly such as children or elderly adults.