Approximately $200 million has been allocated for the creation of a universal influenza vaccine that could protect against multiple strains of the flu virus in Congress’s year-end spending package.
U.S. Sen, Edward Markey (D-MA) has spearheaded the effort to boost funding for the flu vaccine. He and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the Flu Vaccine Act to support research for the creation of a universal influenza vaccine. The bill calls for a $1 billion investment – $200 million from 2020 through 2024.
“The flu is an equal opportunity menace, but America’s scientists and clinicians can help the United States lead the world in improving and enhancing the response to this global scourge,” Markey said. “We must enhance our ability to predict the right strain for the next season, produce a more optimal vaccine, and protect all Americans against all strains of this virus. With increased research funding, hard-working health care providers, and brilliant scientific investigators like the ones we have in Massachusetts, we are the closest we have ever been to ensuring a flu-free future.”
In 2018 and 2019, respectively, Congress allocated $100 million and $140 million for universal flu vaccine research at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This past April, NIH began its first clinical trial of a universal influenza vaccine candidate.
There were 810,000 hospitalizations and 61,000 flu-related deaths during the 2017-2018 flu season. The flu costs Americans $10.4 billion in direct medical costs per year and $87 billion in total economic burden.