According to the World Health Organization, efforts for developing a swine flu vaccine has been ongoing since the first human case of the virus has been confirmed. Estimates place the initial doses of the vaccine will be administered in 5 to 6 months time.
While people diagnosed with H1N1 virus seems to be headed for recovery, there have been deaths recorded. Aside from that, receiving vaccines for this virus is important particularly the elderly and individuals with a weak immune system, since they are prone to complications such as pneumonia.
Likewise, the vaccine will serve as protection in case the condition persists particularly during the winter months which is the time when influenza is at its peak.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), although they are still incomplete, current evidence shows that seasonal influenza vaccines will provide minimal or no protection against swine flu. Every year, a new batch of flu vaccine is developed and matched with strains that the WHO determines will most probably circulate in the winter months, which happens to be the peak season for influenza outbreaks.
Influenza virus comes in various strains which contains different proteins on their surfaces. The body's immune system can only fight and destroy a virus if they are able to recognize these proteins. It is worth noting that antibodies that recognize one strain may not detect other strains.
Existing vaccines may only offer some protection against swine influenza if the proteins on its surface are identical to strains used to develop previous vaccines. According to the NIBSC, they are trying to determine if the swine flu virus, which is an H1N1 strain of type A influenza, as well as previous H1N1 vaccines match current vaccines.
The preparation of a vaccine commences after a virus develops as they provide the starting point for the production of the vaccine. As such, there is always a time delay while a vaccine is being developed. Preparation of a vaccine involves several steps so it would take several months before a vaccine becomes available.
According to WHO estimates, the virus needed for producing the vaccine will be accessible to vaccine manufacturers by the middle of May while the initial dose for a new vaccine would be ready within 5 to 6 months after that. Waiting time would be much longer if the growth of the vaccine proceeds rapidly.
Vaccination plays a crucial role in the prevention and reduction of the effects of serious conditions. Unfortunately, they are not entirely effective and could lose its effectiveness if the virus mutates.
Existing flu vaccines are valid for about one year and are 70% - 80% effective against transmission with strains of influenza virus that are identical to strains used in the production of vaccines.
The WHO believes that it is too early to tell how the A(H1N1) virus would change. It is closely monitoring any changes in the virus and this would help countries quickly react to any important changes that the virus may show.
Vaccines help the body combat certain diseases in case an individual becomes afflicted with the illness in the future. On the other hand, an antiviral drug is used on people who is already infected with a virus. Although they work in various ways, they generally work to prevent the virus from spreading to different cells in the body.
Swine flu vaccines are administered prior to exposure to a virus so they would be protected from that agent. Antivirals only work if administered within a certain period of time before or after they are exposed to the virus.