Four U.S. senators called for $1 billion in federal funding to develop a better influenza vaccine that would provide longer lasting and wider protection than current seasonal vaccines.
Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) said the group was introducing the Flu Vaccine Act, which asks for $200 million annually over the next 5 years for research into creating a universal influenza vaccine.
Markey said it was “simply not enough” that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases spent $64 million in fiscal year 2017 to develop a universal vaccine for what experts consistently rate as the globe’s No. 1 infectious disease threat.
“It has been nearly one century since the historic Spanish flu pandemic killed millions in 1918, but we are still struggling to bring an end to this invidious, insidious infectious invader,” he said. “America’s scientists and clinicians are gold medalists in health and disease research and it is up to the United States to lead the world in the response to the flu.”
U.S. senators introduced legislation calling for $200 million in annual federal funding over the next 5 years to develop a universal influenza vaccine.
Markey appeared at a news conference with fellow senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Angus King (I-Maine) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Infectious Diseases Society of America President Paul G. Auwaerter, MD, who called the funding proposal “a good start at a good time.”
Experts have long said there is a need for an influenza vaccine that can provide protection against many strains for a long period, maybe even a lifetime, although more modest proposals covering the most dangerous strains for humans over a shorter period are also popular.
The call for more funding came as the CDC said this season’s influenza vaccine has been only 36% effective overall this season, and just 25% effective against the predominant strain, H3N2, an influenza A virus that is tough to protect against.
“There are very few life and death issues where we can make a difference. This is one of them, and we have an obligation to do it,” Blumenthal said. – by Gerard Gallagher
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