Medical experts working on universal, lifetime flu vaccine

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(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – There’s a potential breakthrough in medicine: a flu vaccine that would provide immunity for life.

Medical experts are going back to the drawing board to recreate what they’re calling a universal influenza vaccine. It would protect against all strains of the flu.

Getting a yearly flu shot is pretty scary for some, whether you are 6 years old or 60, so what if you only needed to be vaccinated once?

Dr. Juli Horton specializes in infectious disease at Centennial Medical Center. She said that’s exactly what experts are working on.

“The vaccines that we have now unfortunately are targeted toward individual strains, meaning that influenza vaccine changes from year to year. So we have to accommodate that by coming up with a vaccine that really changes yearly,” Dr. Horton explained.

In order to make a vaccine that covers all strains, researchers are completely re-thinking the process of creating it by looking into the parts of the virus that don’t change.

“If we were able to target all strains of influenza, meaning the conserved part of the influenza virus that doesn’t change from year-to-year, we would have a higher success rate at treating all the circulating strains and would mean that we would only have to potentially be vaccinated once,” Horton said.

And Dr. Horton believes that would make getting the flu shot less of a pain for many.

“I think if people knew they had to get just one shot instead of coming into their doctor’s office every fall, I think that would be widely embraced by the general public,” she added.

While last year’s flu shot wasn’t effective for the flu strain that many contracted, this year’s is much better for the strain that’s circulating.

In the meantime, there are a few lifetime influenza vaccine prototypes being tested, but it could be several years before we know if they’re approved by the FDA.

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