Tag: vaccine pipeline

Why Can’t We Make Better Vaccines?

Some parents who don’t vaccinate and protect their kids claim that they want better and safer vaccines.

Wanting better vaccines doesn't automatically make someone anti-vaccine.

Why does that make them anti-vaccine?

Well, it doesn’t automatically make you anti-anything just because you want things to improve. The “anti-” label comes in when folks start to push misinformation about vaccines, scaring others away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

We all want safer vaccines...

For example, I want safer cars too, but it doesn’t keep me from driving and riding in the cars we have today.

I’m not anti-car…

Why Can’t We Make Better Vaccines?

But back to the idea of better vaccines, can we make vaccines that are more effective and have fewer side effects?

Folks who read anti-vaccine propaganda are made to think that vaccine manufacturers have no incentive to make better vaccines, even as they push the idea that vaccines are dangerous and don’t work.

As more people are vaccinated and diseases disappear, they forget how bad those diseases are and they think more about the small risks of adverse events.
As more people are vaccinated and diseases disappear, they forget how bad those diseases are and they think more about the small risks of adverse events. Photo by WHO

In reality, most vaccines work very well already and they have few risks or side effects.

“There is a 1 in a MILLION chance of getting a serious reaction to a vaccine.”

Making the Vaccine Decision

Still, researchers and vaccine manufacturers are constantly trying to make new and better vaccines.

Unfortunately, there is only so much they can do with current technology.

“The technological approaches for making new vaccines have been growing rapidly in recent decades owing to significant advances in a broad range of interrelated fields, including next-generation sequencing and antibody repertoire analysis, molecular and structural biology, genetics (reverse vaccinology), protein and polysaccharide chemistry, immunology, virology, bacteriology, fermentation, macromolecular purification, and formulation.”

Ahmed et al on Technologies for Making New Vaccines

Hopefully that is starting to change and we will soon get a few new and better vaccines.

A new pertussis vaccine is in phase 2 trials.
This new pertussis vaccine is in phase 2 trials.

In fact, most vaccine advocates are looking forward to having a new pertussis vaccine, Lyme disease vaccine, and a universal flu vaccine, hopefully sooner rather than later.

We will likely even see a new oral polio vaccine to use in outbreak situations soon, even as we get close to withdrawing all use of OPV as part of the endgame strategy!

Making Better Vaccines

And using new technology, we will hopefully have new vaccines against even more diseases.

These technologies include using:

  • a recombinant virus or bacteria
  • a recombinant virus or bacterial vector
  • protein based vaccines with fusion proteins
  • peptide based vaccines with B-cell epitopes
  • peptide based vaccines with T-cell epitopes
  • nucleic acid based vaccines

Researchers are also developing new adjuvants and delivery systems.

“The number of approaches for making new vaccines should continue to expand in the future such that almost all antigens or epitopes could be presented in a highly immunogenic form in the context of a live or inactivated vaccine or be expressed through a DNA-based vaccine. Further understanding of gene function in viral and bacterial pathogens should enable live vaccines to be more stably and predictably attenuated as vaccines and as live vectors for vaccinating against other pathogens. Adjuvant and delivery system technologies should provide formulations that are more potent than aluminum salts, yet are safe and well tolerated, and enable delivery by routes other than injection. Bioinformatics tools should enable the refinement of vaccine antigens to exclude those that are potentially cross-reactive with antigens found in normal human tissue thus limiting the generation of pathogenic autoimmune responses related to molecular mimicry.”

Ahmed et al on Technologies for Making New Vaccines

When can we expect these new vaccines?

Probably not soon enough, as few of these vaccines are in phase III trials.

Many, including vaccines that protect against 2019-nCoV, malaria, HIV, RSV, herpes, etc., will be very welcome by most of us.

Still, while new and some improved vaccines would be great, it is important to understand that the vaccines we have are safe, with few risks, and very necessary.

More on Making Better Vaccines

Whose Rights Are Taken Away By Vaccine Mandates?

Why do some people continue to bring up anti-vaccine talking points and act like they are asking some profound questions?

What about my choice to send my kids to school and not worry about their being exposed to measles or another vaccine-preventable disease? #JustAsking
What about my choice to send my kids to school and not worry about their being exposed to measles or another vaccine-preventable disease? #JustAsking

I’m just asking…

Whose Rights Are Taken Away By Vaccine Mandates?

Do they not realize that these anti-vaccine talking point have been refuted a thousand times already?

For example, while ‘where there is a risk, there should be a choice” makes a catchy slogan, it is obvious that these folks only care about the rights, risks, and choices of those who don’t want to vaccinate their kids.

Remember that parents nearly always have a choice on whether or not to vaccinate their healthy kids, even if they live in a state without non-medical exceptions.

You don’t have that choice if your child can’t be vaccinated though.

And they very obviously only care about their imagined right to send their intentionally unvaccinated child to school, where they pose a risk to those who can’t be vaccinated and who have immune system problems.

Don’t parents who vaccinate and protect their kids have rights?

What about their right to send their kids to school and not have to worry about being unnecessarily exposed to a vaccine-preventable disease?

That’s especially important if their child can’t be vaccinated or can’t be fully vaccinated, including those with immune system problems or cancer, who may be immunodeficient because of chemotherapy.

More Anti-Vax PRATTS

What about the $4 billion in payouts from VAERS?

That’s actually from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Trust Fund, during a time when billions and billions of doses of vaccines have been given. And while the the great majority of those vaccines are given safely, since vaccines are not 100% safe, we have the Vaccine Court to help folks get compensated if they do suffer a vaccine injury.

But folks should be concerned that there are 200 new vaccines in the pipeline right?

Nope.

In fact, the “200 vaccines” in the pipeline include:

  • 124 for infectious diseases, including 36 to prevent or treat HIV, 25 to prevent influenza, including new nasal flu vaccines, 8 for RSV, and 8 for ebola
  • 105 for cancers
  • thirteen for allergies
  • eight for neurological disorders
  • seven for other conditions

So the only concerning part is that most won’t make it out of the pipeline and few are actually new vaccines to treat infectious diseases…

Of course it is also very concerning that they continue to push this kind of misinformation that scares parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

Why isn’t the media covering that more?

How about covering the fact that anti-vaccine folks continue to push the idea that vaccines are not tested against placebos, against saline placebos, aren’t tested together, and aren’t tested in long-term studies, despite the fact that they are?

Do We Need Vaccine Mandates?

It might surprise some folks, but vaccine mandates aren’t new.

What is relatively new are all of the exemptions that were added to the very effective vaccine mandates that helped eliminate measles in the United States.

Bob Sears warned us these measles outbreaks were coming. Of course, many people blame him for stoking those fears that made parents avoid the MMR...
Bob Sears warned us these measles outbreaks were coming. Of course, many people blame him for stoking those fears that made parents avoid the MMR…

It should be clear that we now need vaccine mandates without non-medical exemptions as too many people have been abusing these vaccine exemptions.

It’s a big part of the reason why we are seeing a rise in measles and outbreaks of other diseases.

How many will be enough?

Do we have to wait until more kids are dying before we get your attention?
Do we have to wait until even more kids are dying before we get everyone’s attention? Do we have to go back to the pre-vaccine era?

Do we need to wait until more kids are dying before we strengthen our vaccine mandates?

Or better yet, how about we put an end to spreading anti-vaccine propaganda and encourage more people to get vaccinated and protected so that we don’t need mandates?

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and are very obviously necessary.

And for what it’s worth, science isn’t something that gets “debated in an open court of law.”

Debating science in the court room got us The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes or the Scopes Monkey Trial, which made it unlawful to teach evolution in schools.
Debating science in the court room got us The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes or the Scopes Monkey Trial, which made it unlawful to teach evolution in schools.

Neither should laws be made simply because our legislators are influenced by a very vocal minority of people who want to take away the choices and rights of everyone else so that they can send their intentionally unvaccinated kids to school.

More on Parental Rights and Vaccine Mandates

Are There Generic Vaccines?

We are used to drugs becoming generic once they have been around for a while, which may have you wondering if we have generic vaccines too.

“Who owns the patent on this vaccine?
Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

Jonas Salk

In addition to vaccines that don’t have patents, others have lost their patent protection, which typically lasts for only 20 years, so it seems like we could have generic vaccines.

Are There Generic Vaccines?

And we have.

Consider that once upon a time:

  • the Texas Department of Health Resources made up to 7 different vaccines
  • the University of Illinois made a BCG vaccine
  • the Michigan Department of Public Health made up to 8 different vaccines
  • Massachusetts Public Health Biological Laboratories (Mass Biologics) made several vaccines

These included many generic vaccines, including DPT and IPV.

In addition to Tenivac, made by Sanofi Pasteur, MassBiologics makes a generic Td vaccine.

In fact, the Massachusetts Public Health Biological Laboratories continues to make the last remaining generic vaccines, DT and Td.

Why Aren’t There More Generic Vaccines?

Couldn’t more pharmaceutical companies make vaccines, including more generic vaccines, so that they could be less expensive?

“In sum, although patent protection remains the major barrier to the production of affordable small-molecule generics, access to trade-secret–protected information and know-how present major additional obstacles to generic production of vaccines.”

Improving Global Access to New Vaccines: Intellectual Property, Technology Transfer, and Regulatory Pathways

Unfortunately, unlike drugs, patents aren’t the only issue when making a generic vaccine. You also need the expertise, investment, and studies to prove that your generic vaccine is as safe and effective as similar vaccines.

More on Generic Vaccines

Too Many Too Soon Revisited

You know how anti-vaccine folks like to say that kids get too many vaccines at too early an age these days?

Four generations of vaccines or vaccine misinformation?
Four generations of vaccines or vaccine misinformation?

It’s not like the ‘good old days,’ when instead of more vaccines, they just got more diseases.

But looking at the immunization schedules from the 1950s and 1960s, you should know that folks back then got a lot more vaccine doses than you have been led to believe.

Too Many Too Soon Revisited

And you know what else? Those vaccines include the “crude brew” of DPT and smallpox, which contained far more antigens per vaccine than today’s vaccines.

The 1951 immunization schedule published by the AAP.
The 1951 immunization schedule published by the AAP.

By six months, these kids got the smallpox vaccine (200 antigens) and three doses of DPT (3,002 antigens), for a total of 9,206 antigens.

And today?

They could get up to about 174 antigens, including

  • DTaP: 7 antigens * 3 doses = 21 antigens
  • IPV: 15 antigens * 3 doses = 45 antigens
  • Hib: 2 antigens * 3 doses = 6 antigens
  • Prevnar13: 14 antigens * 3 doses = 42 antigens
  • hepatitis B: 1 antigen * 3 doses = 3 antigens
  • rotavirus: 15 antigens * 3 doses = 45 antigens
  • Flu: 12 antigens * 1 dose = 12 antigens

That’s 9,032 fewer antigens or less than 2% of what they once got, even though they are protected against many more diseases!

Not worried about antigens anymore?

Just remember that in the 1950s, in addition to all of these extra antigens, except for smallpox, these vaccines were made with thimerosal and aluminum.

Not that those ingredients were dangerous then, or today. It’s just more recently that folks decided that they were scary.

But it is just important to keep in mind that it is misleading to say that kids only got 2 vaccines then, and now get 69, 72, or 74.

In fact, it’s not just misleading, it’s lying.

If you use the same anti-vaccine math, in the 1950s, they actually got at least 22 doses by age 9 or 10! And they got even more once the polio vaccine was introduced in 1955.

Vaccines don't destroy your life force...
Vaccines don’t destroy your life-force…

Anti-vaccine folks still try to downplay the number of doses of vaccines folks got back in the 1950s and 1960s though.

Why?

To scare you.

Kids do get more vaccines, but they have far fewer antigens, and more vaccines means more protection against more diseases.

In the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, kids were dying of diseases that are now vaccine preventable, including rotavirus, hepatitis A and B, chicken pox, pneumococcal meningitis, epiglottitis, Hib meningitis, and meningococcal meningitis, etc.

What about the idea that all of the extra vaccine doses were added right after the passage of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986?

Believe it or not, it was almost nine years, 1995, before a new vaccine (Varivax) was added to the immunization schedule. Others were slowly added after that, including:

  • hepatitis A (1996)
  • rotavirus (1998)
  • Prevnar (2000)
  • Menactra (2006)
  • Tdap (2006)
  • Gardasil (2006)

The biggest change? The one that helps boost the numbers of doses so that anti-vaccine folks can try and say that kids get 72 doses of vaccines?

That was when we started recommending flu shots for healthy kids, beginning with infants for the 2004-05 flu season. Remember, nearly a third of their list is just flu shots…

What about Hib and Hep B? They were both added right before the passage of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986.

Guess what?

Nothing about their little anti-vaccine memes are true.

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and are necessary.

More on Too Many Too Soon Revisited