For influenza season 2017-2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports final vaccine efficiency at 36 percent.
While this season's recommended vaccines indeed provide some level of protection and treatment against the infection, the federal health agency admits there is a need for a more comprehensive form of immunization.
Without a better alternative, it is likely that the next season may result in a worse epidemic considering that the virus frequently evolves into a new strain that the human body would be completely helpless against.
In anticipation of this mutation, the CDC continues to monitor the ongoing season for factors that could help in the development of a more effective vaccine for the next flu season. The National Institutes of Health, however, is not wasting another minute.
On Feb. 28, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases released its plan to create a universal flu vaccine that could provide long-lasting protection for all ages from multiple types of strains, such as those that are known to cause deadly outbreaks.
Details Of The NIAID Universal Flu Vaccine Plan
In a paper published Feb. 28 on The Journal of Infectious Diseases, researchers from the institute unveil that a group of scientists will be established especially for vaccine development, as well as a special unit to conduct long-term research involving human and animal studies.
To create this scientific breakthrough, the NIAID is focusing on three important areas: expanding current knowledge about the virus' history, development, and transmission; determining how immunization happens and how to produce a vaccine to provide it; and developing new antigens and matching adjuvants for extended protection.
In particular, the universal flu vaccine should be at least 75 percent effective against group I and II influenza A viruses providing all ages with protection that would last for one year.
Furthermore, the researchers highlighted that cooperation among government, academic, charitable, and private entities is another important factor in making the universal flu vaccine a reality.
Support From The Flu Vaccine Act
Such announcement from NIAID follows Senator Edward Markey's introduction of the Flu Vaccine Act last Feb. 15. Because of this new legislation, the NIH is receiving an investment of $1 billion or $200 million for each fiscal year from 2019 through 2023 for the development of the universal flu vaccine.
In fact, the act has set a more ambitious goal. In a statement, the senator notes that the budget is appropriated for a vaccine that would be injected once or twice to provide lifetime immunization.
Senator Markey Applauds NIAID Plan
Although the NIAID's plan falls short in terms of giving lifetime protection, Markey still gave his thumbs up to the institute given that flu season 2017-2018 has made a significant social and economic impact to the nation.
"I look forward to working to secure the resources the NIAID needs so that one day, the flu will be relegated to the history books," he said in a statement dated Feb. 28.
The senator described the NIAID's plan as actionable and achievable in fighting against the "public health menace" that is influenza.