Yearly flu shots could be a thing of the past as researchers have embarked on the first phase of human testing of a new universal vaccine.

Health Canada and the Public Health Agency are testing a synthetic flu vaccine on a group of 65 Winnipeg patients.

The hope is that the man-made vaccine can better protect against the seasonal flu, Dr. Gary Kobinger told CTV’s Canada AM on Thursday.

“The traditional vaccine that’s being given every year is good for that one year, and sometimes a second year, but most of the time it has to be readapted to the viruses that are circulating,” said Kobinger, who is part of the Manitoba-based research team that’s testing the new drug.

He said the vaccine was designed and developed to cover all the influenza strains that have been circulating for the past century.

The vaccine is not designed from a strain of the flu virus, like traditional vaccines. Rather it was developed after feeding a computer with flu strains from the past 100 years.

“If we could cover all these strains, we can cover all the strains that are going to be emerging in the next hopefully 100 years,” said Kobinger.

He said the vaccine will target seniors, who are at a high risk of developing more severe complications after coming down with the flu.

Kobinger added that current flu vaccines are not providing the senior population with a high degree of protection against the infectious disease.

If the drug is eventually made available to the general population, it’s very possible that a single flu shot could protect against the virus for a lifetime, said Kobinger.

“We’ve done so many studies with the vaccine that are showing us it has a very, very good chance of working,” said Kobinger.

He said the synthetic vaccine will have to go through another five to seven years of testing before it’s available to the public.

“While it was science fiction not too long ago to develop a universal vaccine, now more and more people in the science community are really believing that it is possible,” said Kobinger. “And we are part of that group.”