Influenza inflicts significant global mortality and morbidity that can be combated by effective immunization. However, the protective efficacy of current vaccines is limited by both the significant antigenic diversity of the viral hemagglutinin protein and the capacity for rapid antigenic change. This necessitates global influenza surveillance efforts, frequent vaccine reformulation and annual readministration. There is, therefore, tremendous interest in the development of novel strategies to elicit broad and durable protection against both seasonal and pandemic infection. This review presents an overview of candidate universal influenza vaccines designed to elicit cross-protective antibody responses to hemagglutinin. In particular, we focus on the potential impact that widespread pre-existing influenza immunity may play upon the design, testing and deployment of universal influenza vaccines.
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