Breakthrough long-term flu vaccine could mean an end to yearly jabs

A vaccine is being developed that could mean yearly flu jabs being scrapped.

The British team behind the breakthrough believes two or three injections would give long-term protection against different strains of the illness.

Lead researcher Professor Sun­­etra Gupta, of Oxford University, said: “It provides the opportunity to develop not only a more effective vaccine against endemic influenza, with lower healthcare costs, but also better protection against potential influenza pandemics.”

Each year scientists have to predict what the new strain of flu will look like.

There is the risk the virus will have mutated by the time the vaccine is developed. Public Health England said this winter’s jab was only 15% effective overall.

The flu vaccine used at the moment works by triggering an immune response and helping the body to recognise antigens.

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But the new vaccine targets part of the antigens called epitopes. The epitopes vary far less in different strains.

Prof Wendy Barclay, of Imperial College London, said: “This work… would mean we don’t have to update the flu vaccine yearly.

“But if a new pandemic came along, chances are this type of vaccine wouldn’t work against [it].”

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