For a variety of reasons, including antiquated egg-based production methods, the seasonal influenza vaccine is rarely more than 50% effective, leaving even vaccinated patients potentially vulnerable to one of the world’s biggest infectious disease threats. According to early estimates, this season’s vaccine was just 36% effective overall, and only 25% effective against the predominant strain, H3N2 — an influenza A virus prone to mutation and difficult to target with the vaccine.
Based on research showing that a different H3N2 reference virus performed better against currently circulating strains, WHO recommended switching the H3N2 component of next season’s vaccine. Modeling has shown that even small increases in vaccine effectiveness could prevent more than 1 million influenza-related illnesses each year. But according to researchers, next season’s H3N2 component is unlikely to be better than the one it is replacing.
Using a mathematical model, Michael Deem, PhD, the John W. Cox Professor in Biochemical and Genetic Engineering and professor of physics and astronomy at Rice University, and doctoral student Melia Bonomo, BS, calculated that the new H3N2 strain… Continue reading.