Influenza season is well underway, and we all know what that means: time to get vaccinated if you haven’t done so already. Dr. Anthony Fauci ’62, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Holy Cross alumnus in the classics major with a premedical concentration, explained the need for annual flu vaccines on “CBS This Morning” on Monday. “Influenza is a very unusual virus in that it tends to drift from year to year … the vaccines we make now, when they protect you, they make a response that happens to be against that part of the virus that tends to drift because of mutations year to year.”
This is why Dr. Fauci is designating the development of a universal flu vaccine a top priority for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, making him the go-to expert for several national news outlets covering the issue. In a recent Washington Post interview, Dr. Fauci warned, “One hundred years after the lethal 1918 flu we are still vulnerable. Without a universal vaccine, a single virus would result in a world catastrophe.”
This is a complex endeavor estimated to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but Dr. Fauci, who has led the fight against every infectious disease crisis in America since 1984, is certainly up to the task. He told CBS News this week that in order to generate a universal flu vaccine, researchers must be able to determine “what part of that virus doesn’t change very much, and how we can now induce with a vaccine a response that would be dominant against that part of the virus.”
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