Robust Funding, Action Needed To Develop Universal Flu Vaccine

THE CENTERS FOR DISEASE Control have announced that there are signs the flu epidemic may be peaking. But a sharp increase in the number of children’s flu deaths – and thousands of deaths due to flu each week – should remind us of the urgent need to press forward with all speed and the robust funding needed to find more effective preventive measures for the flu.

We have gone without a universal flu vaccine, one effective against all of the many forms of flu viruses, for too long. Right now, there is progress being made in the effort to create it, and this may be the year – and the flu strain – that finally moves government to accelerate progress with the necessary funding.

It has taken some time to answer the call of renowned epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm, issued in 2007, for a billion-dollar-per-year U.S. commitment to develop a universal flu vaccine. Osterholm is still working to address this public health danger, and he received some vindication recently when Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., proposed a bill to greatly increase funding for a universal flu vaccine.

That legislation aims to provide $1 billion to the National Institutes of Health in order to support development of a universal flu vaccine, building on current promising efforts. Funding would begin next year.

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