The only way to make flu history: Change course now
This op-ed was originally published by USA Today on April 27, 2018.
The worst U.S. flu season in a decade appears to be winding down, but the truth is, it’s always flu season.
Even now, as Americans begin to put away the thermometers, hand sanitizers and cough drops, researchers are preparing for the next flu season. As early as February, they began trying to predict which influenza strains will dominate so they can create the right cocktail for next season’s vaccine.
They will at least partly fail, as they always do — but through no fault of their own. Over the past 13 years, seasonal flu vaccines have ranged in effectiveness from a low of 10 percent in 2004-2005 to a high of just 60 percent in 2010-2011. This season’s flu shot was only 36 percent effective. And while the vaccines we tailor for each flu season are important weapons in the public health arsenal, flu mutates so quickly and effectively that even incrementally improved seasonal flu vaccines will prove futile in the event of an influenza pandemic, which will one day arrive.
This is why it is imperative, and urgent, that the world turn what has been a marathon into a sprint to create a universal influenza vaccine — the holy grail of influenza prevention. Such a vaccine would offer broad, long-standing protective immunity not only against known seasonal strains but also pandemic strains that have yet to emerge.
To read the entire op-ed by Dr. Gellin, please visit USA Today.