Vanderbilt Influenza Vaccine Initiative working to create a universal flu vaccine

Kristen Gonzales
December 8, 2017

Brace yourselves: a key flu strain may be more aggressive this year, and experts say the vaccine could be dramatically less effective than in the past. It is one of the best ways to prevent contracting the flu virus. Flu reporting is largely voluntary and often inconsistent, Bennett said, so the weekly surveillance reports are "just a snapshot" that, examined over time, reveal seasonal trends.

"As we prepare for a potentially severe influenza season, we must consider whether our current vaccines can be improved and whether longer-term, transformative vaccine approaches are needed to minimize influenza-related morbidity and mortality", they wrote.

"We don't know if the symptoms are going to be worse this season or not".

Matthew Maurer, Epidemiologist, says there are many various strains of the flu virus.

Makers of the vaccine, though, say the strain of the flu that hit Australia may not be the same one that affects the USA this year.

The paper says the implications for the Northern Hemisphere are not clear but states that since most of the USA influenza-vaccine supply is now produced in eggs and the composition of the 2017-2018 Northern Hemisphere vaccine is identical to that used in Australia, it is possible that we will experience low vaccine effectiveness against influenza A (H3N2) viruses and a relatively severe influenza season if they predominate. According to the Washington State Department of Health, there have been four flu deaths in Washington so far this season. "In fact, in a year where it's low effectiveness, it's even more important that everybody get it so we can get as much resistance and we don't allow the virus to thrive and grow and keep changing".

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When does the flu season begin this year?

"That's why it's so important to get your flu shot vaccine".

Brenden Bedard, director of Community Health Services of Genesee and Orleans Counties said children, pregnant women, people with chronic illnesses - such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or lung disease - and people age 65 and older are at a much higher risk for developing critical health issues due to the flu.

However, Australia also experienced significant cases of influenza B, said Skowronski, and parts of Canada appear to be mimicking that pattern in the early months of the Northern hemisphere's flu season.

"It doesn't necessarily mean flu shots won't work here, or suggest how intense our flu season will be, but it's a good predictor", Crain stated. "That's why we take the flu very seriously". In a typical year, a flu vaccine has an effectiveness rate between 40 percent and 60 percent, according to the report. "Our immune system then gets to see it, to recognize it, and learn it so that if we ever get a natural virus infection, we're ready to respond". The peak infection period of Influenza illness in New England occurs between January and February, though it can last as late as May.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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