Swine Flu Vaccine: What the Heck is an Adjuvant, Anyway?/ ABC News

Joseph Brownstein of ABC News wrote a useful article today with plenty of content. Thanks!

“Killed” vaccines contain one or more antigens (molecules that resembles part of the microbe you are protecting against), and usually also preservatives and antimicrobial products like formaldehyde and thimerosal (50% mercury). Most contain an aluminum adjuvant, which strengthens their effectiveness…but not to the extent the novel adjuvants with squalene strengthen the immune response.

According to Anthony Fauci, director of NIH’s National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, no US vaccines have contained these adjuvants because “it wasn’t felt to be necessary, because the flu vaccines that have been used for decades in this country…were rather broadly protective. We felt that the immune response of the vaccine was pretty good to begin with.”

One error in the article is this statement: “No link has ever been proven between vaccine and Guillain Barre” Syndrome (GBS). Actually, about ten separate studies of the 1976 swine flu vaccine confirmed that the rate of GBS increased 6 to 10 fold in the 6-8 weeks after vaccination. The link has been absolutely confirmed in all the medical literature. I discussed it as an expert witness in a legal case and the opposing attorney didn’t challenge the link.

Fauci indicated that a mild flu season would likely mean novel adjuvants would not be used. (Standard aluminum adjuvants could be.)

Fauci went on to say, “We’re more cautious than when we use something that we’ve used every year for decades. The Europeans have used these same adjuvants for a long period of time with a …. reasonable safety record.” [I explained in an earlier post why they are likely to be relatively safe in the elderly and those with kidney failure, who have weakened immune systems.–Nass] Fauci continued, “There’s not a lot of data on adjuvants in young kids–even from the Europeans.” [Not to mention lack of data in pregnant women, the potential to cause cancers, etc.–Nass]

Here’s a key point: novel adjuvants stretch the supply, so from the perspective of getting enough vaccine for the country or the world in a hurry, they would be indispensable. But from the point of view of the individual, the risk-benefit calculation is problematic.

The June 19, 2009 Science magazine discussed use of novel, antigen-sparing adjuvants for the swine flu pandemic. It quoted Norman Baylor, director of FDA’s Office of Vaccine Research and Review, who pointed out that antigen-sparing strategies benefit populations, not individuals. “You have to think about those trade-offs,” Baylor said.

If Baylor doesn’t understand the issue of novel adjuvant safety, then nobody does.

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