Tag: flu vaccines

The Strategic Plan to Develop a Universal Influenza Vaccine

Even before you get to talk about problems with flu vaccine effectiveness,  it becomes clear that everyone wants a better flu vaccine.

One big problem with the current generation of flu vaccines?

You have to get them each and every year.

Developing a Better Flu Vaccine

So what would we all want in a new and better flu vaccine?

It would:

  • last longer, so you didn’t have to get a new vaccine every year
  • be more effective
  • cover more flu vaccine strains, so it wasn’t a “guess” about which flu strains to include in the flu vaccine each year and we didn’t have to worry about drifted flu vaccine strains or new and emerging strains for which there is no vaccine

A universal flu vaccine, which covers all possible flu strains, would be ideal.

So why haven’t we been working on developing a universal flu vaccine?

Well, we have.

It just isn’t that easy.

Many different research teams have been working on a universal flu vaccine for years and some have already had some success.

Does that mean we will see a universal flu vaccine soon?

Unfortunately, of the almost 40 organizations working on improved flu vaccines, including a universal flu vaccine, about 30 are still in preclinical or phase 1 trials. So the answer is no, we will not see a universal flu vaccine soon.

The Strategic Plan to Develop a Universal Influenza Vaccine

Maybe that will change now that more and more folks are pushing for a better flu vaccine and we see the effects of severe flu seasons without a good vaccine.

Of course, talk isn’t enough.

“A priority for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is development of an influenza vaccine providing durable protection against multiple influenza strains, including those that may cause a pandemic, i.e., a universal influenza vaccine. To invigorate research efforts, NIAID developed a strategic plan focused on knowledge gaps in three major research areas, as well as additional resources required to ensure progress towards a universal influenza vaccine. NIAID will use this plan as a foundation for future investments in influenza research and will support and coordinate a consortium of multidisciplinary scientists focused on accelerating progress towards this goal.”

Erbelding et al on A Universal Influenza Vaccine: The Strategic Plan for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

That’s why it is also encouraging that we have seen the:

  • The Flu Vaccine Act would help fund a universal flu vaccine.the Pathway to a Universal Influenza Vaccine workshop convened by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in 2017
  • the Strategic Plan for Developing a Universal Influenza Vaccine by the NIAID that was announced in 2018
  • U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced the Flu Vaccine Act, which would invest $1 billion towards development of a universal flu vaccine

Knowing that developing a universal flu vaccine is a priority of the NIAID and that so many organizations are already working towards this goal is very reassuring.

Hopefully we are a lot closer than some folks thing.

Until then, a seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to avoid the flu and serious flu complications.

What to Know About Developing a Universal Influenza Vaccine

Developing a better flu vaccine, including a universal flu vaccine, is an even bigger priority with the announcement of the Strategic Plan for Developing a Universal Influenza Vaccine.

More on Developing a Universal Influenza Vaccine

FluMist Is Coming Back

FluMist is a live, attenuated nasal spray flu vaccine.

While pediatricians, parents and kids loved it, since it wasn’t a shot, it hasn’t been available since 2016 because it was found to be less effective than flu shots against the H1N1 strain of flu.

The History of FluMist

FluMist had been a good option for kids who don't want to get a flu shot every year.
FluMist had been a good option for kids who don’t want to get a flu shot every year. Photo by Vincent Iannelli, MD

The FluMist nasal spray was first approved in 2003 for healthy kids over age 5 years and adults up to age 49 years.

In 2007, the age range was expanded to included healthy children between the ages of 2 and 5 years.

It quickly became a favorite of kids who didn’t like the idea of getting a flu shot each year, although some kids didn’t like getting something sprayed into their nose.

Next, in 2012, FluMist Quadrivalent, with protection against four strains of flu virus, was approved.

While some experts initially thought it might work better than traditional flu shots and it actually became the preferred flu vaccine for kids in 2014, by 2016, FluMist was no longer recommended in the United States.

The Return of FluMist

On February 12, 2017, at a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), members voted to once again recommended FluMist Quadrivalent to prevent the flu. It will be available for next year’s flu season, although the recommendation still has to be approved by the director of the CDC.

What happened to FluMist?

“In the 2013-2014 influenza season, when lower than expected effectiveness of FluMist Quadrivalent was first observed, Influenza A (H1N1) was the predominant circulating influenza virus strain. When the data showing lower than expected vaccine effectiveness became available, FDA began working with MedImmune to investigate potential reasons for this finding.”

FDA Information Regarding FluMist Quadrivalent Vaccine

Although they worked on a fix after the 2013-2014 influenza season, the following season showed poor effectiveness for all flu vaccines because of a drifted flu strain. So it wasn’t until the following year that it was noticed that FluMist still didn’t work as well as a flu shot against H1N1 flu strains, at least not in the United States.

Surprisingly, studies in other countries, including Finland and the UK showed that FluMist did work.

And now MedImmune, the company that makes FluMist, has replaced the H1N1 seed virus it uses to make FluMist, and preliminary testing shows that it is more effective and should be as effective as a flu shot.

That’s why the ACIP voted 12-2 to make FluMist available for the 2018-2019 flu season.

Will you get it for your kids next year, instead of a regular flu shot? If the number of parents and kids asking for FluMist this year is any guide, many will be glad it’s back.

What to Know About the Return of FluMist

FluMist has hopefully been improved, been made more effective, and will be ready to help prevent the flu for the 2018-2019 flu season. It will be an especially good option for those kids who don’t want a shot.

More on the Return of Flumist