Web Zap*Germs Archive

March 30, 2006

New Bird-Flu Vaccine Protects Which Half?

Retailer John Wanamaker famously lamented, "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half." His dilemma -- measuring ad-campaign results -- continues to be most ad agencies' Achilles' heel.

I thought about that as I scanned the MSNBC headline: "First Bird Flu Shot Protects Only Half of People" -- which half? Apparently the new US avian-flu vaccine is "only modestly effective, producing apparent protection in slightly over half the people who receive mega-dose shots...."

The article doesn't say whether a higher percentage of certain sub-groups of the volunteers developed a strong immune reaction to H5N1 flu.

"The good news: The vaccine seems safe even at doses 12 times stronger than are used in the regular winter flu shot. The main side effect was pain at the site of the injection. Researchers are giving the study’s 451 volunteers a third dose, to see if that spurs more protection. More promising are other studies under way that add immune-enhancing chemicals to the shots to try to boost their power, in hopes people could be protected with lower doses."

Meanwhile, Chinese researchers have found that horses have developed some H5N1 antibodies that may be useful in developing an effective human vaccine. "Oh, Wilburrrr!"


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