St. Jude tapped to develop new, more effective flu vaccine

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As another flu season begins, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital has been selected to help find an improved vaccine.

The Shelby County Health Department warned that although flu season doesn’t hit in full force until the holiday season, it’s on the way, and being prepared is the best way to stay healthy.

“It takes approximately two weeks after someone’s received the flu vaccine to build their immunity," said Dr. Alisa Haushalter, director of the Shelby County Health Department. "We want people to have really good immunity before the holiday season starts, so now is the time to get it.”

St. Jude announced Wednesday that it is one of two hospitals across the country selected by the National Institute of Health to help develop a more effective flu vaccine.

Dr. Stacey Schultz-Cherry explained that by improving upon the current formula, they can lessen the negative impact the flu has every year.

“The goal, and we have seven years to do this, is to develop flu vaccine or even different vaccines that protect more people; they protect longer and against more influenza viruses," she said.

"Most importantly, what we want to do is reduce the impact," Haushalter said. "Again, things like school days missed, work days missed, hospitalizations that people may have.”

Because the flu is a virus with numerous strands that change and evolve, it’ll probably never be fully eliminated. But the dozens of doctors working on this project are hopeful they can get pretty close.

“The ultimate goal is one shot that will protect you against everything that we know is out there and things that haven’t yet emerged," Schultz-Cherry said.

The project has been given a seven-year contract worth up to $130 million.

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