Avian flu vaccine developed
Amidst all the worrying developments on the avian flu front (Tyler Cowen points out that you are more likely to die of avian flu than a terrorist attack), now comes some good news:
Government scientists say they have successfully tested in people a vaccine that they believe can protect against the strain of avian influenza that is spreading in birds through Asia and Russia. ...There's still more tests to be done, though, so in some ways it's a race against time to see if we can finish vaccine development before avian flu spreads to humans:
In interviews over recent days, Dr. Fauci has said that tests so far had shown that the new vaccine produced a strong immune response among the small group of healthy adults under age 65 who volunteered to receive it, although the doses needed were higher than in the standard influenza vaccine offered each year.
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, said that although the vaccine that had undergone preliminary tests could be used on an emergency basis if a pandemic developed, it would still be several months before that vaccine was tested further and, if licensed, offered to the public. ...And then there's the problem of actually making enough vaccine - again, quickly enough that people can get vaccinated before the avian flu becomes widespread:
The additional tests are needed in part to determine the optimal dose of vaccine; how many shots people will need for protection; and whether adding another ingredient called an adjuvant to the vaccine could raise the potency of lower doses, stretching the number of people that could be protected. Even when these tests are completed, more time will be needed before the Food and Drug Administration can license the human vaccine and before policy makers determine when and how it should be administered.
"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?"Keep your fingers crossed, everyone.
Because the vaccine is made in chicken eggs, "a potential major stumbling block" to successful mass production is the number of eggs farmers can supply manufacturers, Dr. Fauci said.
If manufacturers can overcome such hurdles, the new vaccine could go far in averting a possible pandemic of human influenza, Dr. Fauci said.
Update, 8 August: Better keep them double-crossed.