The yearly call for flu shots may be a thing of the past as researchers begin developing a long-term flu vaccine that can work on multiple strains of the flu virus.
Mt. Sinai Health Systems is due to begin clinical trials on such a vaccine later this year. This comes during an epidemic of flu cases nationwide because this current version of the flu vaccine is only effective 33% of the time.
Researchers have been working on attacking the parts of the flu virus that are more stable and common to all strains of the virus. Thus far, vaccines have been developed to fight parts of the virus which change from year to year. That makes coming up with a vaccine that works against new strains difficult.
Dr. Dean Blumberg, Associate professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases for the UC Davis Health System says the new vaccines can be taken less often.
"Maybe you would give the vaccine once every 5 years, once every 10 years, depending on how immunity lasted maybe once every 20 years," said Blumberg.
"It sounds good... I really don't like going every year," said Nettie Leeks from a senior center where she eats daily lunches.
Seniors are among the high risk groups for the flu. Anywhere between 3,000 to 49,000 people die from influenza each year in the U.S.
Several research groups are developing a so-called universal flu vaccine that works on all strains. But vaccine development is a tricky businesses.
Blumberg says something that looks good in the lab, works on mice or even small groups of humans may not make for something that works for the masses.
Don't expect a miracle vaccine in the near future.
"If everything goes perfectly you're thinking maybe in five years something will be available and if there are any little glitches it may be ten years or more," said Blumberg.