Report urges new look at existing flu vaccines

A new report suggests that the quest for a more effective influenza vaccine faces a barrier of overconfidence in existing vaccines.

The report, conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota, says vaccines that are generally thought to be highly effective are only moderately so, and have fostered a sense of complacency regarding the development of vaccines that can yield greater results, according to CIDRAP News.

The researchers assert that future vaccines need to target viral components other than the head of the hemagglutinin protein on the viral surface, a structure that mutates often and forces a constant reworking of the annual vaccine.

Furthermore, the paper says the policy movement that ended in the universal recommendation for the flu vaccine for everyone over the age of six months was flawed because it was based on professional judgments as opposed to sound data on vaccine effectiveness, according to CIDRAP News.

Current flu vaccines are proving to be only moderately effective in healthy, non-elderly adults and young children, but there is little actual evidence that they remain effective in older children, seniors and those at risk for complications.

"I've received my flu shot this year," the report's lead author Michael T. Osterholm said, CIDRAP News reports. "We urge people to get their flu shot. The present vaccines are the best interventions available for seasonal influenza. However, these vaccines do not offer consistent, high-level protection-especially in individuals at risk of medical complications or those aged older than 65 years. Unfortunately, these are the populations where we need the vaccines to work the best."