Saturday, October 31, 2009

Of Adjuvant and Swine Flu Vaccines

Given the recent row in Germany over the reservation of adjuvant-free H1N1 vaccine doses for Germany’s “more useful” citizens, are adjuvant-added H1N1 vaccines really dangerous?

By: Ringo Bones

From the Aryan Nation-leaning paranoid fear-mongering of American right-wing conservative media darlings Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck to the German government reserving the “supposedly safer” adjuvant-free swine flu vaccines for their soldiers, politicians and other “more useful” citizens. It seems that the public at large are starting to demand that the H1N1 / swine flu vaccine doses intended for them must be adjuvant-free. Will this be exploited by unscrupulous health insurance providers if and when swine flu becomes a flue pandemic, thus making true the excesses that former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’ Connor and the late, great Senator Ted Kennedy spent their entire careers fighting against? Lets just hope it won’t come to that. But what is an adjuvant anyway and what role does it play in H1N1 / swine flu vaccine doses?

According to Webster’s dictionary, an adjuvant is something that enhances the effectiveness of a medical treatment and is often found in vaccine doses and chemotherapy cocktails. An adjuvant is usually agents or substances added to a typical vaccine preparation or dose to allow the recipient’s immune system to respond with higher levels of effectiveness. A typical adjuvant can include various forms of aluminum and are typically used with other vaccines in the United States, including vaccinations for hepatitis-A and B, diptheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine preparations and Heamophilus influenzae type b or Hib. In flu vaccine doses, the adjuvant would be a proprietary water-oil mixture. By using them in various vaccines, doctors hope to reduce the amount of the vaccine itself that is needed.

According to Dr. David Fedson, formerly a professor of medicine at the University of Virginia and former medical director for the pharmaceutical company Aventis Pasteur, an adjuvant reduces the amount of antigen needed in a typical vaccine to initiate an immune response to its intended recipient. For example, a typical bird flu vaccine contains 90 micrograms of antigen – i.e. a flu virus’s “signature” that allows for an immune response. Adding an adjuvant reduces this to 3.75 micrograms, effectively enabling 24 times more doses. By adding an adjuvant, you gain what is known as an antigen sparing effect, according to Dr. Fedson. While flu vaccine doses typically use 15 micrograms of antigens, adding an adjuvant could decrease the amount of antigen required significantly. Which Dr. Fedson readily points out that being able to produce 4 times as many vaccine doses is a huge advantage in terms of public health management.

Ironically, no flu vaccine that is FDA-approved for use in the United States has ever contained an adjuvant because the country had never experienced a widespread flu pandemic in modern times. Thus the need to manufacture adjuvant-treated flu vaccines in America never arose. Although there are still some folks who say that the extent of side effects a typical adjuvant can manifest has never been thoroughly studied. But fortunately for some, all 2009 flu season H1N1 / swine flu vaccine batches being dispensed in the US to protect her citizenry against the H1N1 virus are all adjuvant-free. So far, the latest WHO and CDC studies conducted on adjuvant-added H1N1 / swine flu vaccine doses show no side effects.

But what does this all mean? Given that the majority of people – especially those who gravitate more towards demagoguery than science – tends to have the loudest voices when it comes to griping about this subject. Remember the fears over the mercury-based preservative thimerosal being used in vaccine preparations intended for infants? I’ll bet the loudest voices that griped over that issue are more concerned over obtaining effective “cheat codes” for their game consoles than making informed choices and decisions over the long-term health and well-being of their loved ones. Who knows that the adjuvant in swine flu vaccine issue might gain similar overly sensational media coverage and hype that surrounded the Gulf War Syndrome incidences – thus making scientifically valid investigations very difficult - back in the 1990s.

1 comment:

VaneSSa said...

Even though adjuvants increase the effectiveness of vaccines while using only a small amount of the disease causing virus, it has been a topic of contention since formaldehyde was used as an aduvant in the Salk polio vaccine back in the 1950s. Even a squalene containing adjuvant - MF59 - was blamed for the primary cause of Gulf War Syndrome is now routinely use for H1N1 flu vaccines.
A vaccine for anthrax - although anthrax "vaccines" works more like a rattlesnake anti-venom due to the bacterioogical nature of anthrax - contains the most number of adjuvants. Like aluminum hydroxide, formaldehyde, and even benzalkonium chloride.