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New Against the Flu
An adjuvanted influenza vaccine to protect the young and elderly may be just around the corner in the U.S.

by Keith Berman, MPH, MBA and Luke Noll

EVERYONE KNOWS that getting the flu can be a miserable, temporarily debilitating annoyance. But for young children, the elderly and people with certain chronic diseases, contracting seasonal influenza can sometimes lead to hospitalization with bacterial pneumonia or other serious complications and death. The reason is starkly simple: Natural protective immunity in young children is still underdeveloped, while in the elderly it is in a long decline.

Ironically, for these two particularly vulnerable ends of the age spectrum, immunization with seasonal influenza vaccine is less effective in preventing the flu than it is for older children and non-elderly adults, who mount a stronger protective immune response to the vaccine antigens and, subsequently, the circulating influenza virus itself. While conventional flu vaccines generally provide protection to 70 percent to 90 percent of healthy young adults, the protection rate is far lower in young children and people in their mid-60s and older.

This obvious need for a more immunogenic flu vaccine for the young and elderly who most need it has driven intensive research efforts for decades. Finally, a vaccine that promises to fill this void may be nearing approval. And in an echo of groundbreaking work by British physician Edward Jenner, who in 1796 reported the first successful vaccination against smallpox by use of cowpox from skin lesions of milkmaids, the origins of this new kind of “adjuvanted” influenza vaccine can be traced to keen observation and experimentation.
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