Professor John Oxford, a virologist at Queen Mary University in London, said a new experimental vaccine against flu, considered universal, developed at the University of Pennsylvania represented a “huge breakthrough”. The two-dose vaccine is based on the mRNA technology, the same used in the Covid-19 vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer. Researchers have been working on universal flu vaccines for more than a decade. Now, the scientific team had mixed 20 strains of flu together and determined a response to every strain.
“The potential is huge, and I think sometimes we underestimate these big respiratory viruses,” Professor Oxford appreciated. The vaccine has only been tested in animals to date. Clinical trials are needed to see whether the vaccine protects humans in the same way without causing problematic side-effects. Data could be gained within the next six months. If successful in human trials, the universal flu vaccine would not necessarily prevent infection but would provide protection against severe disease and death. The symptoms of flu are very similar to those of a very bad cold. Experts at the CDC said: “People with flu virus infection are potentially contagious for about one day before they show symptoms. However, it is believed that flu is spread mainly by people who are symptomatic with flu virus infection.” The 1918 flu pandemic demonstrated how dangerous new strains could kill tens of millions of people. The vaccine may be available in one or two years.