New funding for research into a universal flu vaccine has been approved by the U.S. Senate as part of the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education funding bill. Earlier this year, senators introduced the Flu Vaccine Act, which would authorize additional resources over the next five years for research to help develop a more effective, universal flu vaccine.

“Last year’s flu was the worst we’ve seen in years, and with the next flu season starting soon, we have to be prepared,” said Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. “The Flu Vaccine Act will support critical research at the National Institutes of Health to finally develop a universal vaccine so Minnesotans and all Americans can be better protected from all variations of the flu.”

“Flu shots are already available for the coming flu season, and we need to make funding available for a universal flu vaccine to end of this viral scourge,” Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey said.

“Increased federal investment in a vaccine will help predict the right strain for the next season, produce a more optimal vaccine, and protect all Americans against all strains of this virus,” added Markey. “I am pleased that we continue to invest in a flu-free future.”

The most recent flu season was particularly damaging in the United States, resulting in at least 160 pediatric deaths. Despite the damage inflicted by influenza annually, the current vaccine is only 60 percent effective at best. The flu costs the nation $10.4 billion in direct medical costs annually and $87 billion in total economic burden.