Health panel says universal flu vaccine still a decade away

Top federal health officials recently testified before Congress that while the United States has better flu defense today than it did a decade ago, it is still probably five to 10 years away from a workable "universal" flu vaccine.

Officials from both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, CIDRAP News reports.

The questioning focused predominantly on the effects of the current flu season and flu preparedness in general.

The panel heard directly from CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden, FDA Chief Scientist Jesse Goodman and Healthcare Director for the Government Accountability Office Dr. Marcia Cross.

The hearing also included questions about the potential effects of the upcoming automatic sequester cuts scheduled to occur in March. Frieden and Goodman vowed that their agencies will do their best, but they gave no specifics on how the cuts will be handled, according to CIDRAP News.

The CDC concluded that the influenza season started earlier this year than usual and that it has also been substantially more severe. The agency has been cautious about reports that the flu season has already peaked and that flu cases are expected to drop.