The effectiveness of the current flu vaccine is estimated to be under 50 percent this season

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) joined Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) to reintroduce the Flu Vaccine Act, legislation to conduct or support comprehensive research for the creation of a universal influenza vaccine that could protect against all strains of the flu virus and offer longer lasting protection. Senators Klobuchar, Smith, Markey and their 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.

Senators also co-sponsoring the Flu Vaccine Act include Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) Angus King (I-ME), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

A copy of the Flu Vaccine Act can be found HERE.

Last year’s flu season was particularly damaging in the United States, resulting in at least 180 pediatric deaths. Despite the damage inflicted by influenza annually, the current vaccine is only 60 percent effective at best. The flu costs the nation at least $10.4 billion in direct medical costs annually and $87 billion in total economic burden.