Childhood Illnesses

Universal Flu Vaccine

In case you came here looking for the latest news about the flu vaccine (which, granted, I’m sure you didn’t but stick with me), you’re in luck, because there is some! And come to think of it, maybe that’s a good thing after last year’s insane flu season. So, ICYMI, it looks like scientists are hot on the trail of a universal flu vaccine. What’s that, you ask? A universal flu vaccine would allow people to receive only one vaccination for the influenza virus in their lifetime (sort of like the chicken pox vaccine) that covers every strain of the flu. The best thing about this is not having to get a flu shot every single year. Because every parent knows the struggle that is wrangling unwilling kids into the doctor, especially when they know they’ll be getting a shot. After all, it’s like this: doctor’s appt + a new year of school + fall leaves = flu shot.

Right?

The Universal Flu Vaccine

But another thing that’s important, and potentially awesome, about a universal influenza vaccine is that it’ll be designed to protect you from many, if not all, strains of the virus rather than just a handful, like the current flu vaccine. To understand the impact of this, it helps to have a better understanding of how the flu shot works today.

How Does the Flu Shot Work?

As it stands right now, the influenza vaccine is created by scientists several months in advance of the start of flu season. So there’s a great deal of prediction involved in deciding which strains of the flu to include. Basically, the makers of the flu vaccine have to make their best educated guess when it comes to what is in the flu shot. Some years are better than others, but for the most part, seasonal flu vaccines fall far short of 100% effective. Here’s a great bar chart from sciencenews.org that shows the vaccine’s effectiveness over the past several years.

In the same article on Science News, Walter Orenstein, associate director of the Emory Vaccine Center in Atlanta is quoted as saying that early attempts at a universal flu shot “offer more promise than we’ve ever had.” And it seems that this one-size-fits-all vaccination is being backed by some heavy hitters, too. You know, Bill Gates and the US Government—NBD, right? While that’s good news, it seems there’s still a long way to go. Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy, was quoted in an article in Scientific American as saying, “Influenza research today is a humbling experience. The more we learn the less we understand.”

Thoughts on the Universal Flu Vaccine

As difficult as it is to subject our little ones to painful vaccinations, I for one am hoping that this universal flu vaccine hits the market sooner rather than later. Wouldn’t that be nice! But until then, the seasonal flu vaccine is still a great option. It may not prevent every single strain of the flu, but it certainly seems to make a bout of the flu much more manageable, with fewer symptoms and shorter duration.

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What are your thoughts on a universal flu vaccine? Would you trust it? Would you and your family get it? Let us know your thoughts on this ground-breaking vaccination in the comments.

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