The effectiveness of the current flu vaccine is estimated to be under 50 percent this season
Washington (February 26, 2019) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) today reintroduced the Flu Vaccine Act, legislation to conduct or support comprehensive research for the creation of a universal influenza vaccine that could protect against multiple strains of the flu virus and offer longer lasting protection. The legislation is calling for a total investment of $1 billion – $200,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2020 through 2024 for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Senator Markey and his colleagues were able to secure a dedicated $100 million and $140 million for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, respectively, for universal flu vaccine research at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases within NIH. Today, the Foundation for Vaccine Research held a Congressional briefing on this season’s flu impacts and progress being made towards a universal flu vaccine.
Senators co-sponsoring the Flu Vaccine Act are Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Angus King (I-Maine.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
“America’s scientists and clinicians are the heavy hitters in health and disease research, and it is up to the United States to lead the world in improving and enhancing the response to the flu,” said Senator Markey. “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, we are the closet we have ever been to ensuring a flu-free future. The bases are loaded, and the Flu Vaccine Act will help us knock this public health menace out of the park.”
“We’ve lost 29 people in Connecticut during this year’s flu season, a tragedy that has struck many other families in America,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Even a single flu death is one too many, and we must urgently redouble our efforts to create a universal flu vaccine that provides widespread and long-lasting protections against this deadly virus, protecting public health and saving lives along the way. The Flu Vaccine Act will do just that, and I look forward to fighting hard for its passage this Congress.”
“Year in and year out, the flu is a hardship for American families. But with further research and development, we can achieve a universal flu vaccine,” said Senator King. “By increasing funding for our scientists and health care professionals, we can take a critical step towards protecting Americans, improving public health, and making the world a safer place for us all.”
“We’ve had some of the harshest flus in recent years, and it’s put the health of kids, seniors, and those with compromised immune systems at risk,” said Senator Smith. “Doubling down on our investment in a Universal Flu Vaccine—one that could provide a lifetime of protection and wouldn’t need to be given every year—would save lives, save money, and bring down health care costs. Let’s give America’s medical innovators, who are the best in the world at what they do, the support they need to protect our health.”
“The flu has deadly costs – from its human toll to its negative impact on our economy,” said Senator Van Hollen. “We must devote the necessary resources to develop a universal vaccine. Maryland is proud to be home to NIH, which is the gold standard of medical research. No one is better suited to lead this effort, and this investment will help save countless lives.”
“The flu has already hospitalized nearly 800 Minnesotans and caused 23 deaths this season. We must make the investments needed to ensure the safety of Minnesotans and all Americans,” said Senator Klobuchar. “The Flu Vaccine Act will support critical research at the National Institutes of Health to develop a universal vaccine that protects against all strains of this virus.”
“Every year, more than 200,000 Americans are hospitalized from the flu and flu-related complications,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “The flu vaccine is our most critical line of defense against this epidemic, yet health officials are forced to predict what strains the annual flu vaccine should try to combat in any given flu season. The Flu Vaccine Act would fix this problem by investing in the creation of a universal flu vaccine—saving lives by taking the guesswork out of the equation. More than 100 years after the Spanish influenza killed tens of millions across the globe—including my own grandfather—we can and we must do better.”
A copy of the Flu Vaccine Act can be found HERE.