News / Health

World Experts Debate Case for New Bird Flu Vaccine

Technical staff from the animal disease prevention and control center inject a chicken with the H5N1 bird flu vaccine in Shangsi county, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, April 3, 2013.
Technical staff from the animal disease prevention and control center inject a chicken with the H5N1 bird flu vaccine in Shangsi county, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, April 3, 2013.
Reuters
Experts from around the world are in daily talks about the threat posed by a deadly new strain of bird flu in China, including discussions on if and when to start making a vaccine.

Any decision to mass-produce vaccines against H7N9 flu will not be taken lightly, since it will mean sacrificing production of seasonal shots. And scientists warn it will take months to get any finished bird flu vaccine to the market.

But the groundwork is being laid.

The virus has been shared with World Health Organization (WHO) collaborating centres in Atlanta, Beijing, London, Melbourne and Tokyo, and these groups are analyzing samples to identify the best candidate to be used for the manufacture of vaccine - if it becomes necessary.

It is still a big "if", even assuming the continued spread of the new disease, which has killed five of the 14 people that it has infected in China.

"It is an incredibly difficult decision because once you make it you have to change from making seasonal flu vaccines and go to making a vaccine for this virus," said Jeremy Farrar, a leading expert on infectious diseases and director of Oxford University's research unit in Vietnam.

That could mean shortages of vaccine against the normal seasonal flu which, while not serious for most people, still costs thousands of lives.

Sanofi Pasteur, the world's largest flu vaccine manufacturer, said it was in continuous contact with the WHO through the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), but it was too soon to know the significance of the Chinese cases.

Other leading flu vaccine makers include GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis.

Preliminary test results suggest the new flu strain responds to treatment with Roche's drug Tamiflu and GSK's Relenza, according to the WHO.

Money Down the Drain?

There is no evidence yet of person-to-person transmission of H7N9 flu, and scientists do not yet know how what the strain's potential is to develop into a human pandemic.

Wendy Barclay, a flu virologist at Imperial College London, said one major argument against moving too soon would be financial.

"There is a possibility now that flu researchers will all rush to work on H7N9 and grants will be awarded for intensive research to develop vaccines ... and that could be pouring money down a drain because it could be that the barriers for this virus are high enough that we don't need to worry about it," she said.

She said scientists should first be focused on getting "the practical biology and the sequence analysis" before they decide to move on.

Since the H1N1 swine flu pandemic of 2009, in which drugmakers took six months to develop and distribute effective vaccines, manufacturers have been stepping up efforts to produce shots faster to deal with the rapid spread of disease.

It remains a lengthy process, however.

"There is presently no technology that can quickly and cost-effectively mass-manufacture vaccine," said Anton Middelberg, a flu vaccine researcher at the University of Queensland.  "Although the WHO is sending materials for vaccine development to China, it is unlikely that vaccine will be produced quickly enough to impact this outbreak."

Still, the flu vaccine community is not starting completely from scratch.

A degree of preparedness already exists because the last WHO vaccine strain selection meeting in February had already decided to consider the broad H7 virus category as a pandemic candidate.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said vaccine candidate strains had also been developed as a response to previous H7 human cases in Europe and North America.

"These candidate strains may not efficiently cross protect against the novel A [H7N9] strain, but the fact that they are moving towards development does indicate a degree of preparedness globally," the ECDC said.

You May Like

Conflicts Engulf Christians in Mideast

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Chinese Americans: Don’t Call Us 'Model Minority'

Label points to collective achievement, but some say it triggers resentment, unrealistic expectations More

Iran Bolsters Phone, Internet Surveillance

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Polish Ghetto

When the Nazi army moved into the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid