A fellow student in the healthcare doctoral class I am currently taking — Community Health and Epidemiology — posted some thoughts and research about flu vaccinations. His post reminded me of my 2 years, six months, and 22 days in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1971 during which time I received many vaccinations. (I keep a record of all immunizations in my HealthVault database.) There are many studies on the effectiveness of influenza vaccine, whether various categories of people should have the vaccination, and issues about whether healthcare providers should be required to be vaccinated. The purpose of this post is not about those issues but rather about the development and production of the vaccine. Flu vaccine is a wonderful thing that has saved many lives, but the process of making it using billions of chicken eggs is quite slow and archaic. In a video interview with Dr. Eric Topol, Dr. Craig Venter talks about an innovative new approach to the development of vaccines (E. Topol & Venter, 2013). Venter said that the current process for developing the H1N1 vaccine took many months and the supply was barely adequate to cover healthcare workers. He said that if the H1N1 virus had been as deadly and widespread as some had forecasted that we would have had a very bad situation. Venter describes in the video how vaccines can be developed using synthetic DNA. An email containing data about the DNA of the virus to be protected against can be analyzed and a vaccine recipe for production can be available within 12 hours. Venter says the FDA approval is imminent. As new viruses such as H7N9 and H3N2 emerge, with others predicted to arise, the new approach could become extremely important (E. J. Topol, 2012).
Topol, E., & Venter, C. (2013). Venter and Topol on the true revolution in medicine. Medscape Today. Retrieved from http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/780324
Topol, E. J. (2012). The creative destruction of medicine : How the digital revolution will create better health care. New York: Basic Books.