Washington, D.C. A unique study suggests there may be a way to kick-start people's protection against bird flu just in case it triggers a worldwide outbreak years from now.
If a flu pandemic began, it would take several months to tailor a vaccine to the strain causing illness and then to make enough vaccine for every American. People almost certainly would require two doses to protect against a flu strain their bodies have never encountered.
Scientists long have wondered if giving shots in advance might help - a vaccine that wouldn't fully protect but would introduce people's immune systems to a new type of flu. Then, once a pandemic began, they'd need only one booster shot of vaccine tailored to the exact strain, cutting the time it would take to protect a population.
University of Rochester scientists will report today the first evidence that this so-called "prime-and-boost" method could work. Such shots could be offered to doctors, nurses and other first-responders who would be on the front lines of a flu pandemic.