NIAID Director Speaks at Briefing

Anthony Fauci MD, Director, for NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) speaking at the Alliance for Health Policy www.allhealthpolicy.org media briefing said, “To control seasonal and pandemic influenza, it is essential to develop vaccines against specific influenza strains that pose a potential significant risk. Each year seasonal influenza vaccines are developed to try to match the strains that are projected to be prevalent in the upcoming season.”

Dr. Fauci explained, “This year’s flu vaccine was only 60 percent effective but the goal is to achieve 90 percent effectiveness. The flu vaccine changed and because it became less effective, researchers and scientists set out to find out why this year’s vaccine wasn’t as effective as it should have been.”

The annual flu vaccine development process begins months before each flu season. This approach usually provides effective coverage for most people receiving the vaccine but the makeup of viruses can change due to the mutation of the virus strain. It is difficult for researchers to always know what is going to result.

Establishing vaccines can be difficult since manufacturers have to grow selected viruses in chicken eggs to create a vaccine. Scientists then manipulate the viruses to create a chemical lookalike which is then a form of a vaccine.

The fact is that viruses don’t grow naturally in eggs as viruses need to mutate. Usually these mutations don’t change but if they do, they can do harm to the effectiveness of the vaccine. This mutation is what is thought to have occurred in this year’s vaccine.

To control infectious diseases takes several agencies within HHS to work together with NIAID https://www.niaid.nih.gov which includes the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), https://www.phe.gov, CDC https://www.cdc.gov, and FDA https://www.fda.gov.

In addition, collaborations have been ongoing outside of NIAID as with the military. NIAID’s Infectious Disease Clinical Research Program (IDCRP) http://www.idcrp.org works with the military especially with DARPA https://www.darpa.mil and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center https://www.wrnmmc.capmed.mil to reduce the impact of infectious diseases within the military population.

Through his enormous knowledge concerning infectious diseases, Dr. Fauci has also contributed to enabling HIV/AIDS to become a manageable condition and today, HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence. The combination of drugs can now enable a person with AIDS or HIV infections to live a normal life span.

Elizabeth Funderburk, Senior Director, Health Policy for APCO Worldwide and Sarah Dash, President and CEO for the Alliance for Health Policy, appreciated APCO’s support for the “Brazda Breakfast” briefing to keep the media informed on pandemic preparedness.

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