Influenza is an infectious illness that can be spread from one individual to the next. It can be transmitted by means of saliva, nasal secretions, feces and blood. It can also be spread by coming in contact with the virus on contaminated surfaces. Influenza is responsible for an average of 36,000 deaths and for more than 226,000 hospitalizations each year in the United States. (Davidson, 2007-2009, Davis, 2007). It is my goal for this paper to explain how flu vaccines are made, how long it takes to create the vaccines, and when they will be ready for distribution for the upcoming flu season. I will also present some exciting new research that may provide for a newer, faster method for making flu vaccines that would enable the vaccines to be ready and available in less than the traditional eight months.
Influenza viruses are divided into three classes. These are A, B, and C. It is influenza viruses A and B that are the most virulent and responsible for causing outbreaks of the flu every year. Influenza virus C, on the other hand, produces only a very mild respiratory infection or no symptoms at all and does not pose a severe public health threat. The aim of receiving an annual vaccine is to prevent spreading infections. Because flu outbreaks fluctuate, it is recommended that individuals receive a vaccination for the flu every year, especially for those at high risk for developing serious complications from influenza infections. (Davidson, 2007-2009, Davis, 2007).
Vaccines are created using several different methods. However, all vaccines share a similar general goal. That is to weaken the virus or bacteria in a manner that enables the recipient to develop an immune response against the virus at the same time avoiding any symptoms that could cause infection. Vaccines are constructed utilizing similar components that are found in the usual viruses or bacteria. Flu vaccines are made using fertilized chicken eggs. Influenza viruses are then injected into the chicken egg embryos, where they are allowed to incubate and multiply for several days. A machine then extracts the virus from the egg, which is then purified and chemically killed in preparation for creating the vaccine. The vaccines do include the three influenza viruses; two against different strains of type A, and one against the type B virus. (Davidson, 2007-2009, Offit, 2008).
Traditionally, flu vaccines are made using chicken eggs. With this as the only method of creating vaccines, it poses a problem, because chicken eggs are only available during March and April, and not at any other time. Therefore, access to the chicken eggs is restricted to March and April. It also takes approximately one to two chicken eggs to create one dose of influenza vaccine. Additionally, as many as 500,000 chicken eggs per day are needed for the process. It also takes about eight months for the vaccines to be developed using chicken eggs. If another pandemic were to arise, we would not have...