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Flu News Friday 2/12/21

Read the latest on influenza vaccines in this week’s roundup.

The Latest in Influenza Vaccines

1. For mRNA Vaccines, COVID-19 Is Just the Beginning
Michael Eisenstein, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health / January 29, 2021

Easy to manufacture and update, these new mRNA vaccines may be a powerful tool against emerging variants and other infectious diseases, with great potential for fighting influenza. In fact, efforts are already underway to develop universal influenza vaccines using mRNA technology.

SARS-CoV-2’s evolution signals the importance of rational vaccine design based on broadly neutralizing antibodies. The authors discuss an alternative approach to pandemic preparedness, “pan-virus vaccines,” vaccines which act against many different strains of related virus, not only for SARS-CoV-2, but particularly for “evasion-strong” viruses such as HIV or influenza. The authors call for investments now in basic research leading to the development and stockpiling of broadly effective vaccines, while tapping into public-private partnerships for cost. Thanks to work already done on other viruses, particularly HIV and influenza, these approaches are understood and the infrastructure is in place to take on this feat.

When it comes to vaccine information and pandemics, words like authentic and trusted matter, even in the gaming environment. Students, teachers, and life-long learners can play VaxHunt: The Quest to Prevent the Next Pandemic with the confidence that each module has been thoroughly reviewed by STEM.org Educational Research™(SER) and awarded its STEM.org Authenticated™ trustmark. VaxHunt is an online game featuring trivia and puzzle challenges to inspire the next-generation of vaccine scientists to tackle influenza, which is key to preventing the next pandemic.

Those not getting vaccinated are doing harm, a study shows. Drawing from 23 years of data, the study looked at mortality for states with and without laws about healthcare worker vaccination, and states before and after such legislation was passed. One notable finding is that the proportion of healthcare workers being vaccinated has doubled over that time period to 87%, while in the same timeframe, vaccination in the general public rose by only 5%. The states with the most significant declines were states requiring vaccination or a valid reason to decline.

Even after the 1918 pandemic supposedly “ended” a significant number of people continued to die from “flu-like illnesses” for years. So do pandemics really “end” or do they fade from the public’s consciousness? Medical historians Jeremy Greene and Graham Mooney return to the podcast to talk with Stephanie Desmon about how we really mark the “end of a pandemic”, why today’s vaccine hesitancy is strikingly similar to resistance to smallpox inoculations a century ago, and the hope that a focus on health disparities due to structural racism — not individual behaviors or innate characteristics — will endure through whatever the “end” of COVID-19 looks like.

Could such a large amount of money end the COVID pandemic? Eradicate disease? Provide universal healthcare? Fund vaccine research? This article discusses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on current and future spending on healthcare and health innovations, including universal influenza vaccines.

A better understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating the development and/or maintenance of lung-protective memory B and/or CD8+ T cell responses may aid the design of future influenza vaccines. The authors report the presence of a tissue-resident helper T cell population in the lungs that plays a critical role in promoting the development of protective B cell and CD8+ T cell responses after the resolution of primary influenza virus infection.

Groups at high risk of poor outcomes due to influenza include the elderly, the very young, pregnant women and those with chronic health conditions. To protect high-risk groups from influenza, multiple strategies need to be utilized, including the development of a universal influenza vaccine. This article reviews the challenges of vaccine effectiveness for influenza, particularly for vulnerable groups such as the elderly, and what strategies are needed to protect these populations.

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