The influenza virus is constantly undergoing slight genetic mutations. These small changes accumulate into what are called “drifts” and alter the virus’s surface proteins. As a result, the human immune system may not be able to properly respond to the virus or prevent infection.
That’s why seasonal flu shots must be updated every year.
Influenza can also undergo a more significant and abrupt genomic change called antigenic shift, in part due to the mixing of strains in animals like birds or pigs. Antigenic shift results in a completely new strain against which humans have little or no immunity—potentially causing an influenza pandemic.
Getting us to a universal influenza vaccine requires collaboration and new thinking.
650,000Up to 650,000 influenza related deaths are recorded globally every year. (WHO, 2019)
50MAt least 50 million people were killed by the 1918 influenza strain. (CDC, 2022)
230MMore than 230 million deaths could be caused by a strain similar to the 1918 strain today.
Pursuing a Universal Influenza Vaccine
A modern-day influenza pandemic could result in the deaths of an estimated 33 million people globally in the first six months alone. The world needs a universal influenza vaccine (UIV) — one that is long lasting with the ability to protect against a broad spectrum of mutations.
If developed and distributed equitably before the emergence of a novel influenza strain, a UIV could save millions of lives. Our Influenzer Initiative brings together experts and innovators from across the influenza and vaccine development ecosystem, including researchers, policymakers, regulators, economists and beyond to engage in thought leadership and advocacy efforts towards development of a UIV. In doing so, these luminaries share their insights on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and discuss how to apply these learnings towards more equitable pandemic prevention and response in the future.
We make vaccines more accessible, enable innovation and expand immunization across the globe.