Mike the Usurper wrote:
Mike the Usurper wrote:
The current strain of bird flu is a great hazard to birds, and probably to the people who handle them, but making a vaccine for the current strain will do a whole lot of nothing other than throw yet more money down a hole.
Can you site a reference for this? Is it clear that a vaccine for the present strain would not produce antibodies that are effective against mutant strains?
Here's one of the places it is noted, but this was something that was heavily discussed after the botch with last year's flu vaccine. They need the actual pathogen, and while close might help, it needs to be close enough.
The best way to do this is have the infrastructure ready to go like I said. The problem is, there's no money in vaccines, so the impetus for the private sector just isn't there. There IS money in the anti-flu drugs like Tamiflu (with a price tag of $60).
Vaccines are always a hit or miss. At the time that people get their annual flu shot, doctors/scientists are always unsure about whether or not the flu shot will actually help against the current year's flu. The real problem is the technology of making the vaccines. They can't "have an infastructure ready to go" to make a vaccine, because due to technical challenges, it takes six months to actually make the vaccine. That is why you get your flu shot before/right at the start of flu season as opposed to right after the start of flu season, when they would be able to design a vaccine that specifically target the current year's flu virus. I don't agree that it is a waste of money to have avian flu vaccines around. Although right now, avian flu seems to be most harmful to birds, the particular strain (H5N1) is interesting, and will be monitored closely by the CDC and the WHO. Whereas most of the time, flu would normally be most fatal to young children (who haven't had the time to develop a hefty aquired immunity system) and older people (who are susceptible to illness), the avian flu (much like the deadly 1918 pandemic strain) has been seen to affect cytokine activity (cytokines being signalling molecules for the immune system), thus becoming very dangerous for people in any age group. The 1918 pandemic was so deadly because it caused people's immune system to start attacking their lungs...so it was especially lethal to people with healthy immune systems (people in their 20s and 30s). Thus, if H5N1 turns into a pandemic, it could be quite serious, and so having a vaccine around - even if it isn't perfect - is important. I do agree that spending money on making drugs such as Tamiflu is also important (H5N1 is currently suceptible to these neuraminidase inhibitors), however, that can't be the only source of defence against a virus, because it is only effective if taken within 48 hours of symptoms appearing. As well, if the public sees money being funnelled into Tamiflu, they will start stockpiling it (actually, this has already been rumored to have started), or worst, taking it for symptoms that aren't actually the flu, thus generating resistance. Basically, I think we really need to be funding the research of vaccine production...if we could generate a faster way to produce vaccines, that would be the best thing. There are several groups studying this, and several models that are in clinical trials at the moment.
Anyway, thats the end of my rant for the evening, but if you are interested in reading more on this subject, I direct you to the November 2005 issue of Scientific American. They have a very informative and interesting article in there about preparing for potential pandemics.
RE: Bush Outlines $7.1B Flu-Fighting Strategy