The one thing about the flu shot that many people hate is that it does not last long and each year one has to get another injection. Because of the need to get the flu vaccine each year, many people simply do not bother. In fact, the latest data by the CDC indicate that only 40% of people have had a flu shot this year. So the question is: why can’t there be a flu shot that lasts 5-10 years?
You’d be happy to know that we may soon have a flu-shot that remains effective for lasts a long time. Public health officials also agree that such a flu-shot would reduce healthcare costs, prevent disruption from work, school attendance, and other activities.
Once such a vaccine was deemed to be next to impossible but now with advances in molecular biology, what was not possible a decade ago is within the realm of scientists. In fact, several groups of scientists have made significant progress in the development of a permanent vaccine that can protect against the flu with a single injection administered every 5-10 years.
Currently, health officials have to predict the major flu viruses at least 6-9 months ahead of the winter season and have manufacturers’ mass produce a vaccine for that year. With a universal vaccine, this would eliminate the rush and even people who did not get a shot the winter before could now get vaccinated anytime of the year.
The hope is that a broad-spectrum vaccine such as this one will protect against both rare and common influenza viruses.
The annual flu is a dangerous time for the elderly, very young and critically ill. According to the WHO, there are at least 250,000- 500,000 deaths globally because of the flu.
The two key seasonal flu viruses that infect humans include Types A and B. The type A virus is constantly changing and is also responsible for the annual epidemic. Scientists are now using different strategies to stimulate antibody production against parts of this virus.
However, researchers acknowledge that it is unlikely that they will have a vaccine that will last a lifetime without requiring a booster shot in future. So far, they are optimistic about a vaccine that may last 5-10 years, but not speculating anything beyond that. Some animal studies on future flu vaccines have started but it will be several more years before they will be used in humans.