By Laura Otto
June 4, 2019
After a record number of influenza deaths during the 2017-18 season, federal health officials are working to develop a universal flu vaccine that people would get only once in a lifetime as a way to boost participation in vaccination.
But before that happens, scientists need to answer a key question: Why do some older adults respond well to annual flu vaccines and others don’t?
“A universal vaccine would provide broad protection for all age groups against multiple strains of the flu virus,” said Helen Meier, an epidemiologist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “But it may not be successful if we don’t first understand the aging immune system.”
It’s a complex problem that involves multiple factors interacting with one another, said Meier. The answer also is important because older people are those most likely to have serious complications from getting the flu.
Meier, who researches the aging of the human immune system, was recently awarded funding with a Shaw Scientist Award from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. She will use the grant funding to determine how a person’s first exposure to the flu virus affects how their immune system responds to influenza later in life. Read the full article.