Flu vaccines have been around for a long time, and their development started almost 100 years ago! Below, we outline the flu vaccine development timeline:
The 1930s: Scientists isolated the influenza A virus from animals to study the virus and learn how it can be weakened/killed to create a vaccine.
Early 1940s: Jonas Salk, MD (yes, the same doctor who worked on the polio vaccine!) and others work to develop the first inactivated flu vaccine with support from the U.S. Army. The Army was particularly interested in supporting this research because many soldiers died from flu during the 1918 flu pandemic during World War 1.
1942: A vaccine that includes both influenza A and influenza B viruses is produced after the discovery of influenza B viruses.
1945: The first flu A vaccine is licensed for use in the United States.
Although some of the technology has changed and flu vaccines now include 2 types of influenza A and 2 types of influenza B, the science is still based on what was discovered almost 100 years ago. Because flu viruses can evolve quickly and new mutations have occurred (like H1N1), the viruses included in flu vaccines are updated every year to match the types of flu most likely to make people sick.
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