In the United States alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that during the 2017-2018 influenza season:

  • 49 million people were infected with influenza virus
  • 960,000 were hospitalized
  • 79,000 died

Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that influenza virus kills 650,000 people a year. We could use a better influenza vaccine. More importantly, we could use a universal influenza vaccine, one that protects against many different strains for many years.

Several approaches are now being used to make a universal influenza vaccine. Two were recently highlighted in an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Abbasi J. The Search for a Universal Flu Vaccine Heats Up. JAMA. 2019 Nov 6; 322(20):1942. DOI:10.1001/jama.2019.16816).

One candidate, produced by BiondVax and called M-001, incorporates nine common surface and internal peptides that are highly conserved among a broad range of influenza virus A and B strains. The prototype is currently being tested in a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID)-sponsored phase 2 trial with results expected at the end of next year. These peptides appear to elicit both B and T cell responses, the latter of which is gaining more attention in the field. Of interest, elderly adults immunized in a 2011 trial were protected against a new strain of influenza virus that emerged three years later.

Another candidate is based on the conserved or stalk region of the hemagglutinin, the part of influenza virus responsible for attaching the virus to cells. Time will tell whether either of these approaches work. But the good news is that we should know pretty soon.

Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Vaccine Education Center staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.

You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family's personal health. You should not use it to replace any relationship with a physician or other qualified healthcare professional. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult your physician or, in serious cases, seek immediate assistance from emergency personnel.