Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Been watching TV stuff about the shortage of H1N1 flu vaccine. The customary bunch of anti-vaccine people have come bubbling up, discouraging people from getting the inoculation. Robin Cook, MD and pop novelist, writing on the Foreign Policy site about the possibilities of an Influenza A pandemic behind a genetic mutation by the crafty flu virus;
… What the world needs -- and considering the current swine H1N1 pandemic, it needed it yesterday -- is a real plan for rapid expansion of its ability to produce vaccines against influenza A, so that output at any given time can be quickly ramped up to meet the sudden need associated with the appearance of a truly dangerous, new subspecies like our might-be novelistic killer H5N1/H1N1. Governments in both the developed and developing world must take on the job, as this is a worldwide threat. Although vaccines are a 20th-century technology, they remain the most powerful weapons we have for the very real 21st-century threat of influenza A. That is not to say that basic viral research should not also be encouraged and strongly subsidized. The more we know about these mysterious entities the better, as there surely will be far more efficacious small-molecule antivirals in the future as well as antiviral biologics, which might even have more promise in the long run.

Read the whole thing here.


Sugar Magnolia said...

I wouldn't swear to it, but working in a hospital, and being one of the lab rats that run the actual flu test on patients that come in, I have already seen a decrease in both flu cases and in patients coming though the ER with symptoms. Does that mean H1N1 has already peaked? It may be premature to say for sure, but my point is that in true 20th century fashion, we are closing the barn door after the horse has already fled. One of the top priorities, healthcare workers, at least where I work (and likely most other hospitals) HAVE NOT received ANY H1N1 vaccine yet. NO SHIPMENTS have arrived. I was one of the lucky ones to receive the seasonal flu vaccine in September, as we quickly ran out of those as well, with more predicted to arrive for workers in early October. We still haven't reveived THOSE either.

The NIH (or was it the CDC? I forget) predicted by this time there would be hundreds of millions of vaccines available; they revised those estimates by half a mere few weeks ago. Now we are seeing that we have only a measly few million to offer. And personally, I have seen nary a one. Meanwhile, if the season of H1N1 has peaked, and is slacking off, a fat lot of good more vaccines will do in the coming weeks/months, when and if they do arrive. Dr. Cook is totally right. The method of producing flu vaccine b using chicken eggs is 50-year old technology, antiquated, and inefficient. We can and MUST do better. This H1N1 has turned out to be relatively mild, and not the deadly pandemic like the one in 1918, as once feared. What about the next time?

The Loon said...

Part of the problem is the necessity to act as though this one is the Big One. When it turns out not to be the Big One, everyone hoots and says it was all media alarmism [and the media do love to get alarmed]. When it finally turns out to be the Big One, as it will sooner or later, we will be glad we got all agitated. Just hope people pay attention.