Researchers are seeking about 500 NHS patients to try out a new “universal” vaccine against seasonal flu.
The experimental vaccine works differently from the one currently available, which has to be remade each year based on a “best guess” of what type of flu is likely to be about.
The new jab targets part of the virus that does not change each year.
This means the vaccine should work against human, bird and swine flu, say the team at University of Oxford.
It will offer people better protection, they believe.
Immunisation is the best defence we have against flu but it is not always effective.
Last winter’s vaccine cut the risk of flu in adults under the age of 65 by about 40%, but barely worked in people over 65, despite being a good match for the type of flu in circulation.
As people age, their immune systems are often weaker and their bodies may not respond as well to a vaccine as younger people’s bodies.
Prof Sarah Gilbert and colleagues believe that using their vaccine alongside the current one could help.
It is the world’s first widespread human testing of such a vaccine, according to the National Institute for Health Research, which is supporting the project.
Patients aged 65 or older and living in Berkshire and Oxfordshire will be invited to take part in the trial.
Half of the 500 volunteers will receive the usual seasonal flu jab and a placebo or dummy jab, while the other half with get the regular vaccine plus the new experimental one.