Sunday, August 07, 2005

Good news
A vaccine has been developed that is successful against the deadly strain of avian flu that has been found in humans in Asia and Russia.
Health officials have been racing to develop a vaccine because they worry that if that strain mutated and combined with a human influenza virus to create a new virus, it could spread rapidly through the world. (The vaccine cannot lead to such a situation because it is made from killed virus.)

Tens of millions of birds have died from infection with the virus and culling to prevent the spread of the virus. About 100 people have been infected, and about 50 have died from this strain of the avian influenza virus, called A(H5N1). So far there has been no sustained human-to-human transmission, but that is what health officials fear, because it could cause a pandemic. And that fear has driven the intense research to develop a vaccine.
It's worth pointing out, in this Bush-driven anti-science climate, that these so-named "health officials" are government employees. This wasn't driven by supply-and-demand market force capitalism. Supposing this vaccine saves us from a massive pandemic death-watch (and there are still plenty of questions about whether it can and would), it will be due government-funded research, primarily at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, part of the NIH, not because Pfizer or Merck gives a damn about a disease nobody yet suffers.

But there are questions still about the logistics of this vaccine. As the Institute director said: "We don't have all the vaccine we need to meet the possible demand. The critical issue now is, can we make enough vaccine, given the well-known inability of the vaccine industry to make enough vaccine?" There's also this fact: the vaccine would work to keep you from getting infected, not cure you once the virus is ravaging your body (or enticing it to ravage itself, as these things go). So, we need the organized will to produce and implement the vaccine before it spreads over the world, including and especially the poorest most vulnerable world regions.

For those of you interested, the company producing the vaccine, Sanofi-Aventis has a stock ticker symbol of SNY. But there are lots more steps to be taken in the testing process.

Also, last question, do they actually expose test subjects to this deadly avian flu virus to see if they get sick? They would have to pay me some serious cash for that. Maybe there's a safer way they can still test your resistance.

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