Healthy Living Today: Universal Flu Shot | Video| 1/17/2013
Many people get one every year -- but that could soon change with a flu shot that can protect you for multiple years.
It`s not a pandemic this year, but as always, it causes serious illness and even death. A big part of the problem: vaccines that can`t keep up with the flu virus.
"People get exposed to influenza more or less every year," says Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the U.S. Government`s Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "But the influenza virus itself generally changes a little bit. It drifts."
Not like illnesses that we get childhood vaccines for- like measles or polio, according to Dr.Fauci.
He took us inside the lab that could be turning that battle in our favor. It`s the vaccine research center at N.I.H., where more than a dozen top minds are developing a universal flu vaccine. If they nail it.
"Then you`ll have a vaccine that you can give to someone and not worry about those little-bit changes from year to year and you`ll have a response- you may need to give it every few years, every five years, every ten years. But you won`t have to give it every year and have to chase after those little changes."
But Fauci says it means changing the plan of attack.
A crucial step takes place in the tissue-culture room.
"What you see here are studies where we`ve actually grown the flu virus in culture and we`re taking human serum specimens, blood specimens -- and we`re asking if we`ve taught the immune system to make antibodies to that conserved region of the virus."
Fauci says when it`s ready, the universal vaccine won`t eradicate the flu.
"But I think that you`re going to have a significant impact on the incidence of influenza, as well as the degree of protection."
So how far out are we, from people like you and me actually being able to get this universal flu vaccine? Dr. Fauci says it`s not going to be next year, but it`s also not going to be in 40 years. He said realistically, it might be 10 years down the road -- and if they can accelerate it, maybe even sooner.