Virtual VDC
February 2, 2022

Focus:
Basic Science
Count Me In! Click Here to Register

Does Anybody Remember Flu?
Progress in the Development of Broadly Protective Influenza Virus Vaccines

Starring

Florian Krammer, PhD

Mount Sinai Professor of Vaccinology Icahn School of Medicine


Clubhouse Location:
A Zoom screen near you
Agenda: (all times Eastern time zone)
6:25pm — Grab a beer, a glass of wine, or a soda from the fridge and get online
6:30pm — Meeting called to order in the usual way (ear muffs optional)
6:40pm — This is the part where some really excellent science is presented
7:30pm — Q & A
7:45pm — Adjourn, already dreaming of next month's program



Dear Vaccineers,
My friends who work in influenza like to remind me that, while the 1918 Flu pandemic itself is long over, progeny of the virus that killed 10 times as many people as Covid has to date* are still circulating today as a seasonal flu. Fortunately, our current flu vaccines provide some protection against it.

In fact seasonal flu vaccines provide some protection against multiple different strains of the flu. Why? Because they have to! We have a tendency to talk about "the flu" as if it is a single disease but there are actually four different influenza viruses that have risen to the top of the Bad Guy list for their ability to make people -- on a global scale -- sick/dead. What's more, each one has a habit of doing just enough shape shifting every year to require constant tweaks to the vaccines we build and deploy to defend against them.

As you can learn more HERE , the process of crystal balling the composition of the next flu vaccine is a complex, all year in / all year out process that involves continual surveillance on the part of 114 countries; viral samples flying pell-mell all around the world to be analyzed in Atlanta, Memphis, London, Melbourne, Tokyo, and Beijing; high-level meetings every February (to look at what's going on flu-wise in the Southern hemisphere) and September (when the process is reversed and the Southern hemisphere looks North…), and, at the end of the day, more than a fair amount of fingers-crossed, best guesses based on the opposite hemisphere's most recent past reality.

Sometimes those guesses are spot on and the flu vaccine that is deployed in a given year turns out to be a fabulous match for the variety of influenza that ended up circulating in Your Town that year. When that happens, it is sort of analogous to a fully vaccinated and boosted person running across Omicron -- they might still end up infected but, if they do, they will probably have milder symptoms and a shorter disease course.

Other years … the match isn't so great, with icky awful results. (Think: more like an unvaccinated person running across Delta).

But what if it didn't have to be like that? What if, instead, we had a vaccine that was effective enough against a broad variety of flu viruses to take most of the nail biting guess work out of the annual choose-a-vaccine lottery. Wouldn't THAT be great!

So … Realistic Goal or Don Quixote Windmill?

Come to the February meeting of the Vaccine Dinner Club and find out for yourself when Dr. Krammer takes us for a deep dive into the basic science undergirding current efforts to build a better flu vaccine.

And, in the meantime, wash your hands and don't touch your face! (Ironically, the fact that we pretty much didn't have a flu season at all last year -- there's one upside to masks and sheltering in place! -- has the potential for setting us up for a worse flu season than usual this year).

Warmly (but not in a fluey-feverish way)
-Kimbi Hagen, EdD
VDC Director / Goddess

*Here is a (partial) list of things we have today that we didn't have in 1918:

• Bottled oxygen
• An effective vaccine for the disease
• Anti-virals
• Ventilators
• Intubation
• Treatments for co-morbidities
• The CDC
• The WHO

So comparing 1918-1920 and 2020-2022 is apples and oranges. If we HAD had a better medical, clinical, and public health arsenal back in 1918, pandemic mortality would still have been horrifically high, but probably not as high.