I. What’s The Deal With The Influenza Vaccine?
If you are tired of dragging your kids to the pediatrician every year for the influenza vaccine raise your hand. Anti-vaxxers, you can sit this one out.
I’m sure most of my parent friends out there raised their hands. It’s certainly not an adventure I relish with 5 kids in tow. So why do you have to get a yearly flu shot but only get one for tetanus every ten years? What’s the deal, scientists? Can’t you make our parenting life easier?
The problem with influenza
Vaccines work by introducing the body to proteins from pathogens (mainly viruses and bacteria) in a controlled fashion. The body’s immune system sees the proteins and builds a defense against the proteins. When the body then becomes exposed to the whole pathogen the defense system kicks in and destroys the pathogen before it can wreak havoc on your body.
The problem (or the cool thing) with flu is that the virus is always changing the proteins that it has on the surface of the virus. Therefore, even though you have been immunized to the virus, once it changes, your body won’t recognize it. In fact, because of the way flu travels around the world, we are exposed to different flu proteins almost every year. The vaccines only work for one season because essentially they are only good for that year’s type of flu.
It’s a vaccinologist’s nightmare.
A universal vaccine: the holy grail of influenza research
Don’t think that scientists aren’t aware of all you disgruntled parents out there. There is a huge effort to create a “universal vaccine”; one that will protect against so many different flu proteins that people will be able to get their flu shots on a more manageable time frame (I’d be happy with once every 5-10 years).
And they are making some progress, as you can see by these articles:
- New flu vaccine protects against multiple strains including H1N1
- New Flu Vaccine Could Protect Against All Strains
- Is a universal flu vaccine on the horizon?
This research sounds very promising, but it’s a long way from the lab to the doctor’s office. So until then, you are going to have to keep dragging your kids to the doctor’s office every fall.
Hurry up scientists, would you?
Blogging my way from A to Z as part of the 2016 April A to Z Challenge. Come blog through the alphabet with me.
Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District.