Flu vaccine: NHS patients wanted to test ‘universal’ jab

This article was taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-41467097

By: Michelle Roberts

Patients aged 65 or older and living in Berkshire and Oxfordshire will be invited to take part in the trial.

Half of the 500 volunteers will receive the usual seasonal flu jab and a placebo or dummy jab, while the other half with get the regular vaccine plus the new experimental one.

The new vaccine uses a novel way to get the body to ward off flu.

Flu viruses look a bit like a ball covered in pins. Current flu jabs work by getting the body’s immune system to recognise and attack the pin heads or surface proteins of the virus.

But these surface proteins can change, meaning the vaccine must change too.

The experimental vaccine instead encourages the body to make other immune system weapons, called T cells, against unchanging core proteins housed within the “ball” part of the virus.

It should fight multiple strains of influenza and will not need to be redesigned each year, unlike the current one used by the NHS.

Bad flu season

Prof Gilbert, co-funder of Vaccitech, a spin-out company from University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute that is part-funding the work, told the BBC: “We expect that the protection from the new vaccine will last longer than a year, but we will need to test that with more clinical trials in the future.

“It is possible that, in future, vaccinations against flu might be given at longer intervals – maybe every five years instead of every year. But first we have to test protection in the first flu season following vaccination.”

Free NHS flu jabs are available for:

  • People over 65
  • Pregnant women
  • Children and adults with chronic health conditions, such as asthma, or weakened immune systems
  • Residents of long-stay care home or other facilities
  • Children aged six months to two years (although there is also a nasal spray version available for pre-school children and those in the first few years of primary school)
  • Carers

Source: NHS Choices

She said the current trial will take two years to complete. If further studies go well the vaccine could then be licensed for wider use.

The NHS is braced for a bad flu season this winter, following the worst outbreak in many years in Australia and New Zealand.

Flu is easily transmitted and even people with mild or no symptoms can infect others.

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