The Ultimate Protection Against Swine Flu – Vaccines
The growing swine flu epidemic is gradually becoming serious. The disease is spreading freely across the world and has now achieved pandemic status, the first for influenza for 41 years.
As the possibility of a real swine flu vaccines dawns, we need to be aware of what it really is. And we need to know if there is any serious danger from the vaccine itself.
Now more than ever we need a vaccine for swine flu. But the development of a vaccine is a long arduous process that involves a number of complex intricate steps. But what are the steps needed to make a vaccine for swine flu? The US, Australian and British developmental swine flu vaccines all use different bits of several flu viruses. These are then used to construct a vaccine which specifically stimulates the immune system against swine flu.
The reasons why several pieces of various viruses are used is because only such a mixture can be grown in sufficient quantities in hens eggs to enable industrial production.
The amount of viral particles obtained from incubated eggs is crucial. If pharmaceutical companies like Glaxo-Smithkline who manufacture the vaccines find that they get less than expected from each egg, this could drastically effect the amount available to the public. So far no one is sure how much swine flu vaccine can be grown in each egg.
After the viruses are extracted from the eggs they are broken up into pieces. Splitting them ensures that the protein coat of the viruses is on display so that it can induce an immune response in humans. Antibodies are normally formed in the blood as a direct response to foreign protein particles. These protein particles will be similar to those present on a real live swine flu virus. Therefore a vaccine prepares the immune system for a possible invasion. Enabling the immune system to prepare is what makes a vaccine so powerful.
But manufacturers will be stretched to meet levels of demand that will very likely reach global proportions. Glaxo Smithkline have already admitted they will need to cut some corners to satisfy demands. They will be adding chemical agents called adjuvants to their vaccines to make them stretch a bit further. Adjuvants work by stimulating the immune system enabling them to make antibodies in the presence of reduced amounts of vaccine. It is risky because adjuvants may not be enough to prevent the need for a second dose of vaccine which may be needed to provide full immunity.
With resistance to Tamiflu and Relenza growing, vaccines are our only real hope against a global pandemic. Hopefully the pandemic will pass with just a few problems, but it may return later in the year in a more virulent form. Our only hope under such circumstances is the timely intervention of a good vaccine.