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Universal Flu Vaccine

Published on 01 October 2015

Over the past month, Clark Kebodeaux, Pharm.D., BCACP, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, has been sharing his thoughts on the upcoming 2015-16 flu season. He has answered questions about what happened last year and what is changing for this year. He has also provided recommendations on ways to prepare for the flu season and what to do in case you get sick. For the final installment of this series, Kebodeaux examines the possibility of a universal flu vaccine in the future.

What is a universal flu vaccine?

“Like you, I’ve read a number of stories in the past month about development of a universal vaccine—a vaccine that protects against a large range of influenza viruses,” Kebodeaux says. “It’s an exciting possibility but we are still several years away, at best, from a vaccine being widely available.”

A universal flu vaccine would protect a patient for a lifetime and not require an annual immunization. A universal vaccine would be similar to the vaccines for smallpox and measles, which are given to children to provide life-long protection.

How close is a universal flu vaccine?

Kebodeaux explained that there are still several major obstacles to overcome:
• There have been a handful of animal trials up to this point, butIt is not certain how long the immunity will last because these trials are still in early stages.
• Translating animal trials to humans is very complex, and does not always work.

“Despite those concerns, this is still a very exciting development,” Kebodeaux says. “Scientists working on the vaccine have already passed some major hurdles. There’s a lot of reason for hope. But since the flu virus is constantly evolving, it is still important for you to get your flu shot every fall.”

This season’s flu vaccines are now available at most pharmacies. In most cases, patients may receive a flu vaccine with no appointment needed. In addition to the flu shot, pharmacists can provide a number of other immunizations. The rules vary by state, so check with your pharmacist.

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