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Flu Vaccine: A New, Universal Solution?

Symptoms of influenza

A universal flu vaccine has been tested and could be the holy grail of influenza prevention

My heart breaks when I see a sick baby, even if the child isn’t mine. After all, little ones often struggle to express what aches they’re experiencing, so often times all they can do is moan or cry, and it can be tough to help them without really knowing what’s wrong.

What makes me even sadder is knowing a child is sick, but the illness was preventable. Take, for instance, the flu. A shot is available annually that protects against the most common strains of influenza, but many parents opt against getting it for their kids due to unfounded fears of vaccinations.

Hopefully it’ll be good news for all parents upon hearing that a new vaccine has been tested that would prevent against all strains of influenza for 10 years at a time, and could be used to prevent around a billion people a year from contracting the disease.

According to the UK’s Guardian Newspaper, scientists at Oxford University have successfully tested a vaccine that has the potential to fight all strains of the flu by targeting a different part of the virus than traditional vaccines, which means it does not need to be reformulated every year to match the strains most prevalent. The vaccine targets proteins inside the flu that are most common across all strains, instead of those on the external coat, which are more likely to mutate.

A universal flu vaccine has the potential to prevent pandemics like the swine and bird flu outbreaks in recent years. It would also end the need for one shot annually.

It should be noted that while the vaccine was tested successfully on humans, the number of people in the study was shocking small. Eleven healthy volunteers were infected with the flu along with 11 non-vaccinated volunteers. Still, the study is still regarded as significant because it was the first time that a vaccine of this kind was tested on people with positive and safe results.

The next step in the process is to test the vaccine on several thousands of people in a new trial, which means it could take several years before the universal vaccine is a reality for the general public. Still, it’s nice to know there can be some serious relief on the horizon, and hopefully parents who are opposed to the flu vaccine will take this time to monitor the progress of the studies and decide if they want to reverse their decision not to have their children inoculated against a preventable and deadly virus.

Image: Wikipedia

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