Permanent flu vaccine in the works

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The annual flu shot could be a thing of the past. A breakthrough in medicine could provide life-long immunity from influenza.

Physician Christopher Belcher is the Director of Pediatric Infectious Diseases with St Vincent Indianapolis Hospital. He’s been following studies published in both Science and Nature.

“With more permanent influenza vaccines, the idea is to pick a part of the virus that doesn’t change and administer that, and see how well it protects people. And that’s where the work is getting done now,” Belcher said.

Medical experts are going back to the drawing board to recreate what they’re calling a universal influenza vaccine. It would protect against all strains, and could potentially offer permanent immunity, and perhaps, save a few tears in the doctor’s office.

Getting a flu shot could be pretty scary stuff, like it was for 6-year-old Aubrey Pierce. It doesn’t matter that her mom Angie Pierce, who is a nurse practitioner and works alongside Belcher, is doing the sticking.

“Mommy sees lots of sick kids with the flu. It’s not good,” Pierce said.

She’s no stranger to needle phobia, as an infectious disease specialist.

“Nobody likes getting a shot. It’s scary, the needle. Sometimes it’s just the anxiety before you get the shot that’s really bad. So, of course, it would be great if we could do a shot less frequently. Everybody would like that,” Pierce said.

Belcher said medical experts are completely rethinking the entire process of creating the influenza vaccine.

“We depend on the H and the N as the main things that make up the flu vaccine. When we talk about H1N1 or H5N1 flu strains, we’re describing the parts of the virus that change every year and let it cause disease,” Belcher said.

Now, experts are looking into the parts of the virus that don’t change, to create a new vaccine, according to Belcher.

“We’re looking for more common targets that might be there every year so that we don’t have to reformulate. Because, it’s a race to get the flu vaccine made every year,” Belcher said.

And every year, it’s a pain, literally. But, until an alternative is available, it’s worth it, at least for little Aubrey.

“Because so I don’t get the flu,” Aubrey said.

According to Belcher, once the research has been completed, it’ll be handed over to the FDA for approval. If approved, he believes it would hit the market between five to 10 years.

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