Saturday, September 3, 2011

Vaccine Worries and Hopes

Vaccines are miracles of modern medicine, but like all medicine not everyone reacts to them the same way.  As the number of recommended or required vaccines have increased, so too has resistance to them.  Unfortunately, vaccines can only be truly effective if they are administered comprehensively.  When only part of the population is protected, the diseases have the chance to survive and adapt.  Indeed, the claims against the MMR vaccine have apparently resulted in outbreaks of measles this year.

Even when vaccines are effective, they aren't always effective for long.  The flu vaccine, famously, must be refreshed every year to combat the rapidly changing virus.  In the wake of the "bird flu" pandemic, there was some evidence that people exposed may have developed broad flu immunity.  Scientists have now isolated an antibody which targets a protein found on a broad variety of flu viruses.  There is some hope this will lead to a broad-spectrum vaccine in the future.  If nothing else, this should provide some storylines to conspiracy theorists all over the internet.