Scientists closing in on a better flu vaccine

Instead of relying on people to get vaccinated every year, scientists are getting closer to a universal flu vaccine that would last through multiple seasons.

Posted: Jan 14, 2019 9:32 AM
Updated: Jan 14, 2019 9:49 AM

Between 6.2 million and 7.3 million people in the United States have developed the flu this season, according to data released Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This is the first time the agency has provided an in-season estimate of national flu cases.

The CDC also estimates that between 2.9 million and 3.5 million people have seen a doctor because of the flu since the season began in October. Between 69,300 and 83,500 people have been hospitalized because of the virus.

Thirty states have reported widespread flu activity, although flu is present in every state. Fifteen states reported high levels of flu activity as of the week ending January 5. That's four fewer states than the previous week.

The number of children who died of flu increased. Three children's deaths related to the flu were reported in the week ending January 5, bringing the pediatric death toll to 16 for this season, according to the CDC.

Provisional data on how well this season's flu vaccine is working to prevent people from getting sick won't be available for at least several more weeks, according to the CDC.

Last season's flu shot was only 40% effective, and only 37% of adults got vaccinated. The result, experts say: An estimated 80,000 Americans died during last year's remarkably severe flu season, which was the deadliest in more than four decades.

Efforts are underway to create a better vaccine.

Instead of relying on people to get vaccinated every year, scientists are getting closer to a flu vaccine that would last through multiple seasons, called a universal flu vaccine.

"It will be a game-changer," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease at the National Institutes of Health. "It also would very likely be a much more effective vaccine than the ones we have to make each year, hoping that we guess accurately as to what the influenza virus that season will be."

The National Institutes of Health is investigating several methods to achieve a universal vaccine.

One candidate from the Israel-based biopharmaceutical company BiondVax is in large-scale trials in Europe and smaller trials in the United States.

At a congressional hearing on flu preparedness in March, Fauci emphasized the need for a universal flu vaccine and the difficulty in creating one.

For a universal flu vaccine to work, it has to target certain parts of the virus that don't change much from season to season, and that's no easy task.

There's even a possibility it might not work.

"We'll know probably by the end of 2020, the beginning of 2021, whether or not we do have a successful universal flu vaccine," Fauci said.

Until then, Americans will continue to have to keep getting vaccinated every year, which is still better than getting no flu shot at all.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 133802

Reported Deaths: 2402
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin34033991
Ramsey14073360
Dakota9823138
Anoka8661150
Washington593272
Stearns582543
Scott338234
Olmsted325230
St. Louis296569
Wright248314
Clay229743
Nobles226816
Blue Earth20437
Carver17897
Sherburne168522
Kandiyohi16705
Rice163310
Mower151717
Winona125019
Crow Wing101022
Chisago10022
Lyon9656
Benton9409
Waseca9289
Beltrami8917
Otter Tail8627
Todd8055
Steele7593
Nicollet73017
Itasca72717
Morrison7269
Douglas6963
Freeborn6694
Polk6434
Le Sueur6235
Martin61317
McLeod5974
Goodhue58511
Watonwan5784
Becker5614
Pine5430
Isanti5415
Chippewa4353
Carlton4341
Mille Lacs40615
Dodge3940
Hubbard3902
Wabasha3780
Cass3705
Pipestone35017
Rock3284
Meeker3263
Brown3213
Unassigned29053
Yellow Medicine2836
Cottonwood2800
Murray2783
Redwood27511
Roseau2640
Fillmore2600
Renville25211
Sibley2523
Faribault2310
Wadena2313
Jackson2101
Kanabec20910
Houston2041
Swift2011
Pennington1911
Lincoln1820
Stevens1821
Aitkin1792
Koochiching1694
Pope1560
Big Stone1380
Wilkin1344
Lac qui Parle1333
Marshall1211
Lake1190
Norman1150
Mahnomen1132
Clearwater1110
Grant984
Red Lake782
Traverse560
Lake of the Woods441
Kittson400
Cook160

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 115574

Reported Deaths: 1621
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk18874288
Woodbury718394
Johnson584430
Black Hawk557498
Linn5513129
Dubuque518657
Scott454138
Story398918
Dallas344344
Pottawattamie323544
Sioux242516
Buena Vista225512
Marshall201436
Webster183015
Plymouth165727
Wapello152562
Clinton148326
Muscatine144258
Des Moines138610
Cerro Gordo136225
Crawford135514
Warren12477
Carroll114512
Jasper109634
Henry10545
Marion100710
Lee95410
Tama94437
Delaware77812
Dickinson7347
Wright7191
Boone7179
Mahaska68724
Bremer6719
Harrison65311
Washington65311
Jackson6283
Benton5812
Lyon5497
Clay5284
Louisa52115
Winnebago48719
Hardin4757
Winneshiek4749
Hamilton4684
Kossuth4660
Cedar4605
Poweshiek45611
Buchanan4514
Jones4444
Floyd43311
Emmet42917
Clayton4193
Iowa4059
Cherokee4022
Page3990
Mills3971
Sac3974
Guthrie39115
Cass3883
Franklin38018
Butler3782
Fayette3744
Shelby3721
Allamakee3638
Madison3603
Chickasaw3561
Clarke3493
Humboldt3233
Hancock3164
Palo Alto3102
Calhoun3074
Grundy3075
Osceola2791
Mitchell2750
Howard2699
Monroe25911
Monona2441
Jefferson2381
Taylor2362
Union2324
Appanoose2253
Pocahontas2232
Fremont2021
Lucas2016
Ida1922
Greene1860
Davis1764
Van Buren1742
Montgomery1737
Adair1611
Keokuk1601
Decatur1500
Worth1440
Audubon1421
Wayne1203
Ringgold882
Adams810
Unassigned260
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