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Swine Flu Vaccine In Production 147

ravjen writes with news that "Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis AG said they have successfully produced a swine flu vaccine weeks ahead of their expectations. The vaccine was made in cells, rather than grown in eggs as is usually the case with vaccines." This announcement came just a day after the World Health Organization declared H1N1's spread to be a pandemic. The vaccine has not been tested in humans yet, so the first batch is set to be used in clinical trials and pre-clinical testing. If all goes well, the new production method would allow Novartis to get the drug to market in large quantities by this fall. Other drug companies, such as Baxter International, have confirmed that they're in "full-scale production" of H1N1 vaccines as well.
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Swine Flu Vaccine In Production

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  • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Sunday June 14, 2009 @09:56AM (#28326263)

    At the moment, vaccinating people in the U.S., Canada and Mexico makes the most sense, the prevalence is highest here (3/4 of all infections that the WHO is tracking...).

    Countries like India and China can make their own (and have the resources to work in their regions if they want to).

  • by philpalm ( 952191 ) on Sunday June 14, 2009 @10:24AM (#28326427)
    The prevailing main argument is who has the money to pay for the vaccine. If India or China can pay for it then let them have some. The highest bidder usually wins, despite your bias to send it to only certain countries.
  • by rve ( 4436 ) on Sunday June 14, 2009 @10:41AM (#28326489)

    Can anyone explain why this virus is so different from all the others floating around? Why the panic?

    The case fatality rate (CFR) of the pandemic strain is estimated at 0.4% (range 0.3%-1.5%)

    We've all had worse diseases than this.

    It seems to be more infectious that seasonal flu, or people have less resistance to it. In a normal flu epidemic, only a few percent of the population gets infected. Most people either never catch a flu, or have it once every couple of years. The Spanish flu of 1918 had a total infection rate of up to 40%. If 40% of the population gets the Mexican flu, and the death rate remains at about 0.5%, it will be more deadly than the American civil war.

  • Re:Quite frankly (Score:5, Informative)

    by rve ( 4436 ) on Sunday June 14, 2009 @10:52AM (#28326545)

    with all the hype surrounding this, one might be tempted to start considering the possibility that some big pharma in search of the next blockbuster could have designed the virus, the vaccine, the initial test release in a remote village and subsequent dispersal in airports, and the fud campaign together.

    Not feasible. Although it has been a popular theme in both Sci-fi and conspiracy theories, technology is still not advanced enough to design a virus. It is unthinkable that a laboratory would have advanced this far ahead of the rest of the scientific community in complete isolation and without ever publishing or filing for patents.

    It will almost certainly be possible one day, but not any time soon.

  • by True Grit ( 739797 ) * <> on Sunday June 14, 2009 @11:11AM (#28326625)

    H1N1 is known to be highly unstable. It has a tendency to pick up genes from other viruses.

    Is it possible these properties will make for a more "dangerous" vaccine than others?

    No, they will instead make for a less effective vaccine, because the virus *might* end up mutating faster than we can produce viable vaccines for it. Or it might just fizzle out and disappear, H1N1 is inheriently undependable in this regard, you can't predict its behavior, which is the problem.

    What happened to you can actually happen to anyone after taking any vaccine (though normally its rare). Vaccines are in effect a way to give your body a very *weak* version of the virus so it will recognize it as an enemy if the real virus shows up later. Human variability being what it is though, sometimes a very weak version of the virus manages to gain a foothold despite it being weaker, and sometimes it is still enough to trigger a strong, perhaps overly-strong, immune system response.

  • by DJRumpy ( 1345787 ) on Sunday June 14, 2009 @11:49AM (#28326807)
    You forgot to mention that they don't even use 'live' virus any more. The vaccines used today for flu are not 'dangerous' unless you have an egg allergy. They basically just prime your immune system so that it can properly recognize a flu infection and respond accordingly. They do not inject you with live flu virus.
  • Re:Why Why Why?! (Score:5, Informative)

    by True Grit ( 739797 ) * <> on Sunday June 14, 2009 @11:58AM (#28326859)

    People get the flu EVERY SINGLE YEAR,

    Folks get a *different* strain of influenza every year.

    H1N1 is no different.

    Yes, it is. It is a different strain of H1N1 that we haven't seen before, a combination of parts of four other strains of influenza A.

    The WHO and the media make a big deal about this

    The WHO is making a big deal about it only because it is a new strain that hasn't been seen before, and its spreading rapidly, thus fewer people will have any built-in resistance to it. And this particular category of influenza A has a nasty history of mutating quickly.

    The media make a big deal about it because its news, but inevitably they end up over-hyping it since they're trying to fill 24/7 with 'interesting' news, and there just isn't enough to do that.

    (H1N1 being a pandemic is blasphemous)

    No. You just don't know what the meaning of the word 'pandemic' actually is. Hint: the number of casualties to the disease has *nothing* to do with its pandemic status. Look it up, it doesn't mean what you think it does.

    millions of people each year who die from easily treatable illnesses such as Malaria.

    Please define what you mean by "easily treatable". Malaria has no silver bullet, and the only available treatments which work consistently are really just preventative measures and are relatively expensive. And since the parasites behind Malaria are evolving resistance to the usual antimalarial drugs, for the most part, once you get it, you're cooked.

    Malaria is a highly *intractable* problem that occurs in the poorest parts of the world, which makes dealing with it nearly impossible. That's why its a chronic problem, its not something that would just go away if the whole world threw some money at it. Nobody knows *how* to get rid of it.

  • by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Sunday June 14, 2009 @12:03PM (#28326895)

    Flu vaccines _do_ _not_ use a weakened viruses. They use _proteins_ from virus envelope, the don't contain viral RNA.

    So it's not possible to get a flu infection from a flu vaccine.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 14, 2009 @12:33PM (#28327141)

    You forgot to mention that they don't even use 'live' virus any more. The vaccines used today for flu are not 'dangerous' unless you have an egg allergy. They basically just prime your immune system so that it can properly recognize a flu infection and respond accordingly. They do not inject you with live flu virus.

    This is not entirely true. MedImmune's Flumist vaccine uses an attenuated, cold-adapted live virus. However, it is not injected. It is sprayed as a mist into the sinuses and causes a VERY MILD infection (typically a runny nose for a couple of days). Unlike the killed virus injections, it causes a full immune response because it is live virus and it is applied at the site where most people are first infected with the flu.

  • Re:Why Why Why?! (Score:2, Informative)

    by areusche ( 1297613 ) on Sunday June 14, 2009 @01:02PM (#28327317)
    The drug you are referring to is Lariam, the trade name for Mefloquine []. There are many many more drugs available to combat against malaria then this that do not have this type of dangerous side effect.
  • by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Sunday June 14, 2009 @04:56PM (#28329141)

    It's complicated...

    First, a special strain of flu virus (A/PR/8/34) is combined with the target virus. The strain A/PR/8/34 is not very pathogenic for humans, but grows readily in eggs.

    So there's really not even a trace of a target flu virus in vaccines.

    Next, inactivated flu virus is filtered and purified (by centrifugation, chromatography, etc.) to remove nucleic acids, other viral material and all sort of cell debris. So for all practical purposes, flu vaccine does not contain live or even attenuated flu viruses.

    In fact, flu vaccine is so non-immunogenic that special adjuvants are needed to boost body's response.

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