Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Should we be rushing a bird flu vaccine to market?

New Scientist sounds off on the need for action on bird flu: Bird flu: kick-start vaccination or face the consequences

Substantial commercial, political and bureaucratic barriers remain that will stop us being able to vaccinate enough of the world's people to contain any pandemic. What is urgently required is a global plan to combat the threat.

The problem boils down to numbers. A hybrid vaccine virus has already been produced that could immunise people against the H5N1 bird flu virus. But manufacturers can't make enough of it.

Then, when most observers flinch at the analogy to the swine flu scare, they raise it as a hopeful example.
The science is in place. Now the world needs to push forward to test and license a vaccine. When pandemic fears surfaced with swine flu in 1976, the US government developed, tested and licensed a vaccine, then made enough for most of its people, within six months. "We did it in 1976," says Fedson. "Why can't we do it now?"
Most people think that swine flu vaccination was a waste because it never progressed beyond a scare, and many people died from the hastily concocted vaccine. Interesting that they feel differently; that it is an example of how we can protect ourselves against a threat before the threat becomes a disaster.

I really don't know how scared to be about this...

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