Scientists have pinpointed a method to make the flu vaccine more effective

If you’ve ever gotten a nasty case of the flu even though you dutifully got a flu shot, you know that the vaccine is not 100 percent effective. Now, scientists believe that they have devised a new way of producing the vaccine that will offer better protection.

Wait—The Flu Vaccine Isn’t 100 Percent Guaranteed?

Part of the reason the vaccine is not fully effective is because the strains mutate. For decades, vaccine manufacturers have used chicken eggs to grow the flu virus strains used in the shot. Problems arise when the human strains mutate to adapt to their new environment, making the vaccine an imperfect match for the virus.

What Makes The New Method Better?

Researchers at Duke University have found a way to prevent the strains from mutating, which allows them to make a perfect match for the virus. Their findings have been published in the journal mBio.

“We have solved a fundamental problem that scientists had accepted would be part of vaccine production—that the virus is always going to mutate if it is grown in eggs,” said senior study author Nicholas S. Heaton, Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at Duke University School of Medicine. “This research could lead to a significantly cheaper and more efficacious vaccine.”

flu vaccine photo
Getty Images | Tim Boyle

Despite the flu vaccine’s current efficacy rate, it’s probably still in your best interest to get one. According to the CDC Foundation, flu illness costs the U.S. more than $87 billion annually, which includes an estimated $10.4 billion in direct medical expenses.

And if it’s the needle that’s preventing you from getting a flu shot, there’s another new development in the world of the flu vaccine that might interest you. A version of a flu vaccine patch developed by Georgia Tech’s Laboratory for Drug Delivery showed promising results in its first human clinical trial, according to a study in The Lancet, which would make getting vaccinated as easy as slapping on a band-aid.

[h/t: Science Daily]