Researchers test possible universal flu vaccine
Published Wednesday, August 22, 2012 10:20AM CST
Last Updated Thursday, August 23, 2012 4:23AM CST
A study underway in Manitoba is testing whether a new vaccine could protect against multiple flu strains, meaning people would only need to be given a single shot in their lifetime, similar to the measles vaccine.
If successful, people would no longer need annual flu shots and would be protected for years with just one shot of the new vaccine.
“The concept for a universal influenza vaccine was science fiction for a long time,” said Dr. Gary Kobinger from the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Scientists have been carrying out tests of the new vaccine on the elderly in Winnipeg for the past five weeks.
The vaccine was created by inputting information into computers from flu strains dating back multiple decades.
Typically, the flu vaccine offered each year only targets certain strains of influenza, but this vaccine is aimed at protecting against dozens of them.
“We designed the vaccine to protect against all these different viruses in the past 100 years with the rational that if it works with all these viruses, it will work against all these ones we don't know yet,” said Kobinger.
The study is being funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research.
The regular flu shot contains egg protein and can cause an allergic reaction in some patients.
The new vaccine currently being tested is synthetic, with officials not expecting any side effects.
Ray Carradine gets the flu shot each year. He thinks the possibility of a one-time flu shot is definitely positive.
“If it’s man-made, it’s probably safer than the others. I would hope so anyway,” he said.
The current trials for the vaccine are being done on elderly patients since they’re at a higher risk of fatalities from the flu.
Dr. Kobinger said the vaccine, if approved, would be available for everyone. The vaccine will have to go through three testing phases. Researchers are estimating the vaccine could be on the market for the general public within five to seven years, if it’s given the green light.
Last year, more than 250,000 Manitobans received the flu shot, or about 20 per cent of the province’s population.