U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Co-Sponsors Legislation for Enhanced Investment in Universal Flu Vaccine Development

Flu costs the nation $10.4 billion in direct medical costs annually and $87 billion in total economic burden

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin is co-sponsoring the Flu Vaccine Act, led by Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), to conduct or support comprehensive research for the creation of a universal influenza vaccine that could be administered once or twice and provide a lifetime of protection.

The United States has already seen 63 pediatric deaths and high levels of illness and hospitalizations related to the flu this season. One-in-10 Americans who died the week ending on January 20th died from the flu or pneumonia.

“This year, Wisconsin is experiencing a severe flu season that is threatening the lives of children and families across our state,” said Senator Baldwin. “It is absolutely critical that we increase our federal investment in medical research, and support Wisconsin innovation, science, and research working to develop a much needed universal flu vaccine. As the granddaughter of a NIH-funded scientist, I am proud to support the Flu Vaccine Act, which will pave the way for greater medical innovation and help save lives.”

The legislation is calling for a total investment of $1 billion – $200,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2019 through 2023 for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases within NIH spent an estimated $64 million for universal flu vaccine research in fiscal year 2017.

The flu costs the nation $10.4 billion in direct medical costs annually and $87 billion in total economic burden, yet our current investment is significantly lacking. The current flu vaccine is only 60 percent effective at best, with some estimates putting the effectiveness of this year’s vaccine as low as 10 percent.

“As an infectious diseases physician, I have seen and heard some of the devastating results of this winter’s severe influenza season, underscoring the urgent need for a universal vaccine that will provide protection against influenza regardless of each season’s primary strains,” said Dr. Paul Auwaerter, President, Infectious Diseases Society of America. “It is important that we invest the resources necessary to develop this life-saving tool, and Senator Markey’s bill will be extremely helpful.”

In addition to Senator Baldwin, the following Senators are co-sponsoring the Flu Vaccine Act: Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

A copy of the Flu Vaccine Act is available here.

Additionally, Senator Baldwin and her Senate colleagues sent a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), led by Senator Markey, asking for more information on how the department is preparing for and responding to the flu virus.

Specifically, the Senators request additional detail on the department’s work to predict more accurately the right viral strain for upcoming flu seasons, produce vaccines more rapidly and effectively, prepare hospitals and providers for the risks of a severe flu season, and protect all Americans against the virus through developing a universal flu vaccine.

Other Senators signing the letter to HHS include Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Angus King (I-ME).

A copy of the letter to HHS can be found here.