Scientists close to perfecting universal flu vaccine

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Efforts are underway by the National Institutes of Health to create a universal flu vaccine.

It's a shot that would cover multiple strains of the virus and would last through several seasons. If a successful universal flu vaccine is developed, you'd only get a flu shot every five to 10 years instead of annually.

"The universal flu vaccine would target the constant protein in the middle of the flu virus, which is constant across all strains so that you, theoretically, would never have a mismatch," Dr. John Zaso, a pediatrician, told News 12 by phone. "The other important thing with this vaccine is not only is it there to prevent the flu, they're being developed to actually minimize flu symptoms, so...if you do get sick, you end up with a much, much milder disease than you would with a regular flu."

Vaccine trials are currently being conducted in the U.S. and Europe.

Some Long Islanders, including Lloyd Harbor's Emily May, are skeptical. She says she doesn't think it would help protect against all flu strains over several years. Maureen Henry, of Bethpage, says she'd be willing to try the universal vaccine.

Researchers say they'll probably know by the beginning of 2021 whether they've developed a successful universal flu vaccine. Until then, people will have to continue getting the flu shot every year, if they wish.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7.3 million people have come down with the flu this season. Data shows that between 69,000 and 84,000 people have been hospitalized because of it.

Health officials also report that 16 children have died, including three within the last week.

The flu is considered widespread in New York and 30 other states.

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