Recent measles outbreaks have reignited the vaccine debate. Infectious disease researcher Michael Osterholm says that everyone should be vaccinated. “One of the challenges we’ve had is this growing body of anti-vaccination efforts out there. We are starting to see the return of vaccine-preventable diseases and we don’t have that institutional memory anymore,” Osterholm says. “Our job is to keep everybody vaccinated as much as we can as a barrier against any virus being introduced into the community and spreading.”
Osterholm also emphasizes the importance of a more effective flu vaccine. “If one looks back at all of human history, influenza has surely been the Lion King of infectious diseases,” he says. “The challenge we have today is that we’re using a flu vaccine that utilizes largely WWII technology. What we’re looking for in a game-changing flu vaccine is one that instead of being very specific to one strain or virus, actually it captures a number of different strains.”
Osterholm says that with a flu vaccine, we could take influenza pandemics off the table. “This would have to rival anything we’ve ever done in public health, including the eradication of smallpox. That would be an amazing achievement.”
Osterholm’s latest book, “Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs,” is now available.