Swine flu vaccine is still 6 months away. Perhaps this will be ready for next years flu season. However, with the rate at which viruses mutate, it is possible that it would not even be effective for next year’s strain. In either case, staying healthy, exercising regularly and eating the right foods can do a lot to keep our immune systems’ strong. Studies have shown vitamin D to also be effective in preventing the flu, which likely explains why the flu is more dangerous during the winter and spring months, where there is less sunlight.
Don’t wait around for new flu vaccine
The nation’s convoluted development process means protection against H1N1 virus won’t come for several months.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — A day after the World Health Organization upgraded the swine flu to a “pandemic threat” level, the nation’s pharmaceutical industry warned that a vaccine to protect against the virus could still be at least six months away.
“It’s going to be very hard to be doing it any faster,” said Alan Goldhammer, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).
The biggest obstacle is the egg-based technology used to develop all flu vaccines in the United States.
The process involves first growing the virus in chicken eggs, then harvesting it into vaccines.
Not only is this a time-consuming process, but Goldhammer points out that the quantity of the vaccine produced is limited to the egg’s volume.
“It’s only so fast that you can make a chicken lay eggs,” said Goldhammer.
“It’s a 1940s technology that’s not efficient anymore,” said Devon Herrick, senior fellow with non-profit research group the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA).. He said a cell-based technology not approved in the United States — but used in Europe — could cut the vaccine development time to 13 weeks from its current 24 weeks.
Competition for eggs: Complicating matters is the fact that the cumbersome U.S. vaccine process was already gearing up to treat a different strain of the flu later this year.
At the beginning of each year — usually in January — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tries to predict what new virus strains will hit the United States nine to 12 months later. The government has not revealed the 2009-10 strain.
To do this, the CDC looks at flu strains that have already impacted Asia, said Herrick. Once the agency agrees on a strain for all manufacturers to develop into a vaccine, commercial scale production usually begins in March for market availability in late September to October.
That process had already started when the swine flu or H1N1 virus struck Mexico. Now the two strains will compete for the limited resources manufacturers have to develop seasonal vaccines.
“In general, the normal flu vaccine given in October and November is about 80 to 100 million doses,” said Goldhammer. “‘We’re talking about producing 70 to 80 million doses just for swine flu.”
Goldhammer said vaccine makers also need to run multiple tests to find the right dose for each vaccine to determine the necessary immunity against the virus.
The roadblocks to speedy production don’t end there. Goldhammer said only six companies last year manufactured flu vaccines and two of them are relatively small…read rest of story