tisdag 11 maj 2010

Immune vaccination

I write my column Making Immunity More Than Skin Deep in TCS Daily on 9 March 2005.
DNA vaccines, will they save the day?
Vaccines are one of the greatest blessings science has bestowed on humanity. It was not so long ago millions of people died in epidemics of transmittable diseases like measles, smallpox, polio and diphtheria (the risk of dying from diphtheria was previously 10% in the US and Europe). They still do in many parts of the world. Vaccines have contributed to increased life span even in less developed nations, with many splendid successes -- like the worldwide eradication of smallpox in 1980.

Despite these successes, in the face of the most serious influenza scare for over a decade, the US recently basically ran out of flu vaccine. Europe is also seeing the first signs that a similar crisis could be possible in the near future, when a scare hit about the risk of a strain of avian influenza from Asia spreading to the continent. A public debate started about rationing and stockpiling of medicines and fears deepened because a vaccine has not been developed yet against avian flu. The risks of a pandemic are most probably exaggerated, but still we should not take the problems surrounding vaccines today too lightly either. The scare about influenza vaccine shortages might even have been a lesser worry. In fact, European influenza vaccine stocks are generally better off than those for diseases like tetanus or chickenpox.
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