On October 24, Scott E. Hensley, Ph.D., assistant professor and member of the Vaccine Center at The Wistar Institute, took to Facebook to spend an hour answering a wide variety of flu vaccine-related questions.
Hensley logged on at 10 AM and was busy responding to friends' and followers' posts for an entire hour, fielding questions about unexpected illnesses that accompanied flu shots, updates to the flu vaccine from last year, and why it’s necessary to get flu shots every year.
In his lab, Hensley is working with other Wistar researchers on a universal flu vaccine. Tom Avril of the Philadelphia Inquirer asked how soon a universal vaccine might become available. Hensley could not provide an exact timeline, but he said a universal vaccine is getting close as researchers continue to understand how to make vaccines more effective.
“We now know that some humans produce immune responses that recognize very conserved regions of influenza, and now the trick is to design a vaccine to stimulate these immune responses in the entire population,” Hensley responded. “There are several promising approaches, including new vaccine antigens that stimulate immune responses that recognize conserved parts of the hemagglutinin protein.”
Not all questions had straightforward answers. For those who asked about things like egg allergies and weakened immune systems, Hensley recommended that they should consult with their doctor to determine which types of vaccines are most appropriate while still providing effective protection against the seasonal flu.
You can see a rundown of the entire Q&A here, and people who like our Facebook page can stay tuned for future Q&As with other members of Wistar’s faculty, and visit Hensley’s lab website to learn more about the research he and his team are doing to combat seasonal influenza.