Universal flu vaccination may be ‘worth the shot’

Alex Gatopoulos, Staff Writer

A universal flu vaccine has seemed, at least for a majority of the history of modern medicine, impossible and out of reach. However, with the recent advancements made at McMaster University and Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai, New York, this may not be the case. Scientists have recently figured out a way to treat every strain of the flu with just one vaccine.

Interest in a universal flu vaccine has increased in recent months after last year’s flu vaccine proving to be less effective than predicted. This was due to the flu virus mutating right after the vaccine entered production.

This new one has potential because of how it works. Dr. William Schaffner describes the flu as “a bunch of lollipops on stems sticking out of it. The sucker part of the lollipop changes from year to year but the stems do not.” Previous vaccines attacked the “sucker” part of the flu virus, which changes annually, requiring a new vaccine every year. This new vaccine attacks the stems, which do not change, allowing for the vaccine to be equally effective against all flu strains.

Shaffner stated, “The universal vaccine is the Holy Grail, and the prospects of what this could do for medicine is staggering.” It is expected to start clinical trials later this year and go into full production within five years.

The CDC still recommends that people get vaccinated because, despite being less effective, the 2014 vaccine still protects against the flu.