On Wednesday there has been an announcement that three important advances in the direction of a possible pandemic flu vaccine have been made. This shot might be at some point in the future delivered to people’s doorstep via the mail, which means that we would have to administer the vaccine by ourselves. The study was published in Science Advances, where the team of scientists explained three major steps that they took.
The importance of such advancements
One fear of one of the public health officials is that another flu pandemic could occur in the future and millions of people could die. This is not a question of whether such situation will happen or not, it’s just a matter of when it will. We know that the largest influenza pandemic took place 100 years ago and more than 50 million people died. This is also known as the Spanish flu.
It is expected that the next global pandemic will, in fact, kill almost 33 million people in as fast as six months. It is absolutely obvious that we are in need of the development of vaccines. Nevertheless, there’s another aspect that we need to think about, that of how to administer such a vaccine.
What are the steps that the team of scientists took
The team took three important new steps, which were described in the newly published study. First of all, they created a short, hollow microneedle, which is supposed to pierce only the top layer of one’s skin and not the muscle. This would allow for the vaccine to be self-administered. One of the co-authors of the study, Darrick Carter from the Infectious Disease Research Institute, mentioned that they intend to create some patches or bandages that would have dissolvable microneedles and could be used for self-administering the vaccine. This would allow for a fairly painless vaccine, which would be easy to administer and would be delivered in the mail, in an envelope. The vaccine could also be distributed outside grocery stores for free.
Secondly, the team developed a noninfectious flu vaccine, whose purpose would be to protect people against the deadly Indonesia H5N1 flu virus. Compared to the usual 4-6 months that is necessary for egg-based vaccines, the former would take only 3-4 weeks to be manufactured. Thirdly, they have added an immune booster to the vaccine, an adjuvant. Carter has also mentioned that such vaccine would be effective due to the intradermal shot and the adjuvant. Since 70% of our immune system is in our skin and lungs, such vaccine could be more effective than an intramuscular one.