In 2009, the global community was struck by one of the worst epidemics in history. A disease so viral its spread is virtually impossible to contain and manage. The Swine Influenza epidemic of 2009 has now achieved a pandemic status. The first time something like this has happened in the last four decades.
The WHO and many disease control organizations across the globe are scurrying to protect us from this new viral disease. They are doing this by promoting preventative measures as well as unprecedented cooperation in developing a vaccine. However we must first educate ourselves of what a swine influenza vaccine really is and if there are any serious dangers from the swine influenza vaccine itself.
The development of a swine influenza vaccine is a long and tedious process which can only be undertaken by only a handful of pharmaceutical companies. The vaccine development process is quite intricate; they utilize various bits of several different flu viruses to construct a vaccine which specifically stimulates the body’s own immune system against the Swine Influenza Virus. The reason for using bits of the virus is because it would be the only way to generate sufficient quantities of the vaccine (the bits of viruses are actually grown in hen eggs). After the viruses are extracted from the hen eggs, they are broken down into smaller pieces which ensure the protein coat of the virus is exposed so that it can induce an auto-immune response in humans.
Antibodies are then formed in the blood as a direct response to the external protein particles. These are the particles that best resemble those of the swine flu virus. Therefore the vaccine actually loads the immune system full of antibodies which will attack the swine flu virus should a person contract it.
The problem with the swine influenza vaccine is that manufactures such as Glaxo Smithkline who makes both the Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir) swine influenza vaccines is the sheer quantities that are required in order to meet demand. In order to produce enough vaccines chemical agents called adjuvants will have to be added to the vaccine mix. Adjuvants are used to stimulate the immune system in order to make more antibodies because of reduced amounts of the actual vaccine (think of it as a booster shot for the vaccine). The body will only make as much antibodies as it needs to fight off the infection which will require many people to get a second dose of the swine influenza vaccine, further stretching supplies.
Another problem is that the swine influenza virus is building a growing resistance to Relenza and Tamiflu vaccines. We can only hope that the pandemic will pass and go with as little complications as possible. However it may return in later years as a more potent mutated virulent form. Lets pray that we have a powerful enough vaccine in sufficient enough quantities should that unfortunate event occur. In the meantime make sure you follow standard preventative measures.