Written by By Giulia Berollo, CNN
Brace yourselves: Your measles vaccination could still be effective against an H1N1 variant strain that’s spiking around the world — albeit it taking more than twice as long as its predecessor.
Researchers at Oxford University found that the latest clade of the human H1N1 influenza virus used in a vaccine that protects against both H1N1 and H3N2 caused stronger immune responses in animals than last year’s vaccine did.
The vaccine is predicted to reduce the chances of getting the H1N1 strain, which is easily transmitted via sneezing, from 42% in comparison to last year’s levels.
“The new vaccine delivered a far greater immune response than the 2016 H1N1 H3N2 vaccine we saw in a lab-based study,” said co-author Oliver Sim, at the university’s Vaccine Laboratory.
“Mammals were protected four times more effectively than in previous seasonal vaccine studies for H1N1 variants.”
The study was conducted in mice, but researchers say the findings are useful because animals have a higher survival rate in human clinical trials than people.
The 2018 inoculations generally failed to provide the same level of protection as the previous year’s vaccines against the same H1N1 strain. Researchers at Oxford University were quick to point out that the current vaccines don’t have “outrageous” safety implications, but the continued evidence that they can strengthen the immune system should increase public confidence in the vaccines.
‘Nothing to worry about’
“More confident individuals may be more able to adopt prevention strategies such as washing their hands and covering their mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, rather than the more drastic steps of resorting to hospital or time off work,” said co-author Kingsley Wheaton, also at the Oxford University Vaccine Laboratory.
“All that is required is more vaccines for a longer period of time.”
The current H1N1 vaccines don’t work against the many forms of the virus circulating worldwide — and “nothing to worry about” for humans, according to Sanja Penjore, a clinical leader in the department of infectious diseases and vaccines at the World Health Organization.
She told CNN that it was possible to contract H1N1 from animal sources, which are often transmissible via contaminated animal hosts, including livestock, wild animals, humans and zoo animals.
And while she emphasized the importance of universal vaccines to be regularly updated to avoid future outbreaks, Penjore also encouraged individuals to get vaccinated against the flu.
“The H1N1 viruses emerging each year are constantly evolving,” she said. “This means that vaccines can never be a complete guarantee and that people should continue to take the necessary measures.”