Flu is the enemy. President Trump signed an executive order aimed at developing better flu vaccines to defend Americans.
Seasonal flu “kills tens of thousands of Americans each year,” Alex Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services, said in a statement. A faster vaccine production process would help keep Americans safe, Azar said.
Thursday’s executive action ordered the creation of a flu vaccine task force, with input from various federal agencies and headed up by Azar and the secretary of defense. For now, the executive order does not allocate any additional funding toward vaccine development or production.
Scientists develop each year’s flu vaccine months or even up to a year in advance, but vaccine efficacy can vary widely. In recent years, the flu vaccine has not been well-matched to that year’s virus. In 2018, for example, the flu vaccine was only 30% effective.
Regardless of efficacy in a given year, medical professionals still recommend getting the flu vaccine, which greatly reduces influenza hospitalizations overall.
In the executive order, President Trump emphasized that each year, flu vaccines prevent millions of illnesses and thousands of deaths. It also acknowledged that a deadly flu pandemic could inflict trillions of dollars of damage on the economy.
“Unfortunately, many of the vaccines we use today are produced overseas, using time-consuming, egg-based technology, which limits their effectiveness and makes production too slow to effectively combat a potential deadly influenza pandemic,” the White House said in a statement.
In a related fact sheet, Trump said, “We want a safe and healthy future for every American family.”
Improving flu vaccines and developing universal formulations was part of proposed Senate bill last year that would have invested $1 billion in research over the next 5 years.