On Sept. 19, 2019, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order, “Modernizing Influenza Vaccines in the United State to Promote National Security and Public Health.” Describing mass use of influenza vaccines “to combat seasonal flu” and influenza pandemics as “strengthening our Nation’s public health and security,” he announced the establishment of a National Influenza Vaccine Task Force. The Task Force will develop a five-year national plan to reduce “reliance on egg-based influenza vaccine production” in the United States and increase the country’s “capacity of alternative methods” for producing influenza vaccines that “allow more agile and rapid responses to emerging influenza viruses.”1
The Executive Order also directs the Task Force to:
- “advance the development of new, broadly protective vaccine candidates that provide more effective and longer lasting immunities;” and
- support the “promotion of increased influenza vaccine immunization” among “populations recommended” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); and
- improve “public understanding of influenza risk and informed influenza vaccine decision-making.”1
The Task Force is specifically directed to look at ways to work through the director of the CDC to “increase influenza vaccine use through enhanced communication and by removing barriers to vaccination.”1
The Task Force will consist of a senior official from each of the following departments, agencies and offices: Department of Defense; Department of Justice; Department of Agriculture; Department of Veterans Affairs; Department of Homeland Security; Food and Drug Administration; CDC; National Institutes of Health; Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. The Executive Order directs the Task Force to submit a report on its plan to the President within 120 days.1
On Sept. 20, the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases awarded the University of Maryland’s Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health in Baltimore a $200 million grant to develop more effective influenza vaccines and, ultimately a “universal” influenza vaccine.2
During the second half of last year’s “flu season,” the influenza vaccine was estimated to be only nine percent effective.3
According to Kathleen Neuzil, MD, who directs vaccine research at the University of Maryland, “Eliminating influenza is the goal. It will certainly be a challenge, but in seven years we hope to have a better vaccine, or a lot of better vaccines.” The research, which will be conducted under a program called Collaborative Influenza Vaccine Innovation Center (CIVIC) will “address the need to develop and test influenza vaccines that protect against new and emerging strains, and ultimately prevent more disease,” says Dr. Neuzil.2 4
“Development of a better flu vaccine and ultimately a universal flu vaccine is important and life-saving work,” says U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.2
“A universal vaccine would protect against, if not all, a great array of influenza strains and could be given every 5 or 10 years or whatever it is,” says William Schaffner, MD, medical director for the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. “Every healthcare encounter would be an opportunity to provide that vaccine, not just every fall.”2
WBAL-TV 11 in Baltimore reports that the vaccine research that will be conducted under the grant to the University of Maryland will include “clinical trials and challenge studies in special populations such as children, pregnant women and the elderly.”5
1 Trump DJ. Executive Order on Modernizing Influenza Vaccines in the United States to Promote National Security and Public Health. The White House Sept. 19, 2019.
2 Cohn M. University of Maryland wins $200 million grant to develop flu vaccine that will work for years at a time. The Baltimore Sun Sept. 20, 2019.
3 Cáceres M. What’s So Effective About a Flu Vaccine That’s Less Than 10 Percent “Effective”? The Vaccine Reaction July 3, 2019.4 Babcock S. University of Maryland awarded $200M for flu vaccine research. Technical.ly/Baltimore Sept. 20, 2019.
5 Robinson L. UMd. School of Medicine close to cutting edge of research on universal influenza vaccine. WBAL-TV 11 Sept. 20, 2019.