Is There a Universal Flu Vaccine in our Future?
Dec 14, 2010

By Christine Vara
These past few weeks, there has been a great deal of conversation within this blog and on our Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page regarding the seasonal influenza vaccine.
Some critics complain that the flu vaccine only protects against certain strains of the flu and so there is no guarantee that the vaccine will prevent them from getting sick.  These concerns are valid.  Since it takes time to produce the vaccines, production must begin before the actual flu season starts.  Scientists have to make educated predictions regarding the various flu viruses they expect will be circulating the following year.  
“What if the predictions are not accurate?” is a common question.  “I can get vaccinated only to end up with a strain of the virus not covered by the vaccine?” 
 Fortuantely, the flu viruses seen so far this year are included in the seasonal vaccine, thereby protecting those who have been vaccinated.   Health Department Epidemiology Nurse Margaret Zylstra explains, “There are three flu strains that are actually circulating nationwide and are causing some illness already in certain areas of the country.”  Zylstra adds, “The strains that are causing illness this year are the strains that are covered by the vaccine this year. So it’s a very good match.”
However, other parents complain about the inconvience of bringing their children in to get a shot, and even consider the cost of the doctor visit to administer the shot to be rather prohibitive to a large family.  One parent specifically addressed this concern by stating, “It’s just not worth it to me for what my insurance makes me pay.” 
So what if there was a flu vaccine that covered all known flu viruses and provided protection for several years?  Could this possibly increase flu vaccination rates? Can it reduce the hospitalizations and death from flu each year?
Well, researchers currently working on the universal flu vaccine say that yearly flu shots will become a thing of the past if a new vaccine currently undergoing human trials proves successful.
According to a recent report from Voice of America News, scientists say “a universal vaccine will not rely on growing viruses in eggs. They will produce it by using the genetic sequencing of the flu, so it will be available faster, fewer people will get sick and die and it will be much cheaper than producing a new flu vaccine every year”.
That sounds promising to me.  But what are your thoughts regarding a universal flu vaccine?  Do you think it will help increase vaccination rates,  or will is just make it easier and more effective for those who already get vaccinated.  More importantly, can it  reduce the number of deaths caused by the flu each year? 
Stay tuned to the wonderful world of science and research for these answers and more immunization developments.

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