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Vaccination has become an everyday worry in the 21st century. The people of the planet are seeing the return off long ago defeated diseases and new one springing into view like the H1N1 Swine Flu virus that is sweeping the planet at pandemic speed.

On top of the natural order of disease we are also threatened with man-made versions designed to kill or incapacitate large populations or entire countries. Bioterrorism is a looming disaster few are ready for.

It's time to learn about what you can do to stockpile vaccines and other medicines that might even include nuclear dirty bomb fallout.



     Influenza A virus subtype H1N1

Influenza A (H1N1) virus is a subtype of influenzavirus A and the most common cause of influenza (flu) in humans. Some strains of H1N1 are endemic in humans and cause a small fraction of all influenza-like illness and a small fraction of all seasonal influenza. H1N1 strains caused a few per cent all human flu infections in 2004-2005 [1]. Other strains of H1N1 are endemic in pigs (swine influenza) and in birds (avian influenza).

In June 2009, World Health Organization declared that flu due to a new strain of swine-origin H1N1 was responsible for the 2009 flu pandemic. This strain is often called "swine flu" by the public media.


Types of vaccinations

All vaccinations work by presenting a foreign antigen to the immune system in order to evoke an immune response, but there are several ways to do this. The four main types that are currently in clinical use are as follows:

1. An inactivated vaccine consists of virus particles which are grown in culture and then killed using a method such as heat or formaldehyde. The virus particles are destroyed and cannot replicate, but the virus capsid proteins are intact enough to be recognized and remembered by the immune system and evoke a response. When manufactured correctly, the vaccine is not infectious, but improper inactivation can result in intact and infectious particles. Since the properly produced vaccine does not reproduce, booster shots are required periodically to reinforce the immune response.

2. In an attenuated vaccine, live virus particles with very low virulence are administered. They will reproduce, but very slowly. Since they do reproduce and continue to present antigen beyond the initial vaccination, boosters are required less often. These vaccines are produced by passaging virus in cell cultures, in animals, or at suboptimal temperatures, allowing selection of less virulent strains, or by mutagenesis or targeted deletions in genes required for virulence. There is a small risk of reversion to virulence, this risk is smaller in vaccines with deletions. Attenuated vaccines also cannot be used by immunocompromised individuals.

3. Virus-like particle vaccines consist of viral protein(s) derived from the structural proteins of a virus. These proteins can self-assemble into particles that resemble the virus from which they were derived but lack viral nucleic acid, meaning that they are not infectious. Because of their highly repetitive, multivalent structure, virus-like particles are typically more immunogenic than subunit vaccines (described below). The human papillomavirus and Hepatitis B virus vaccines are two virus-like particle-based vaccines currently in clinical use.

4. A subunit vaccine presents an antigen to the immune system without introducing viral particles, whole or otherwise. One method of production involves isolation of a specific protein from a virus or bacteria (such as a bacterial toxin) and administering this by itself. A weakness of this technique is that isolated proteins may have a different three-dimensional structure than the protein in its normal context, and will induce antibodies that may not recognize the infectious organism. In addition, subunit vaccines often elicit weaker antibody responses than the other classes of vaccines.

A number of other vaccine strategies are under experimental investigation. These include DNA vaccination and recombinant viral vectors.

What Is a Vaccine?

Vaccination is the administration of antigenic material (the vaccine) to produce immunity to a disease. Vaccines can prevent or ameliorate the effects of infection by a pathogen. Vaccination is generally considered to be the most effective and cost-effective method of preventing infectious diseases. The material administrated can either be live but weakened forms of pathogens (bacteria or viruses), killed or inactivated forms of these pathogens, or purified material such as proteins. Smallpox was the first disease people tried to prevent by purposely inoculating themselves with other types of infections; smallpox inoculation was started in China or India before 200 BC. In 1718, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu reported that the Turks had a habit of deliberately inoculating themselves with fluid taken from mild cases of smallpox, and that she had inoculated her own children. Before 1796 when British physician Edward Jenner tested the possibility of using the cowpox vaccine as an immunization for smallpox in humans for the first time, at least six people had done the same several years earlier: a person whose identity is unknown, England, (about 1771); a Mrs. Sevel, Germany (about 1772); a Mr. Jensen, Germany (about 1770); Benjamin Jesty, England, in 1774; a Mrs. Rendall, England (about 1782); and Peter Plett, Germany, in 1791.

The word vaccination was first used by Edward Jenner in 1796. Louis Pasteur furthered the concept through his pioneering work in microbiology. Vaccination (Latin: vacca—cow) is so named because the first vaccine was derived from a virus affecting cows—the relatively benign cowpox virus—which provides a degree of immunity to smallpox, a contagious and deadly disease. In common speech, 'vaccination' and 'immunization' generally have the same colloquial meaning. This distinguishes it from inoculation which uses unweakened live pathogens, although in common usage either is used to refer to an immunization. The word "vaccination" was originally used specifically to describe the injection of smallpox vaccine.

Vaccination efforts have been met with some controversy since their inception, on ethical, political, medical safety, religious, and other grounds. In rare cases, vaccinations can injure people and they may receive compensation for those injuries. Early success and compulsion brought widespread acceptance, and mass vaccination campaigns were undertaken which are credited with greatly reducing the incidence of many diseases in numerous geographic regions.

Triggering immune sensitization

In the generic sense, the process of artificial induction of immunity, in an effort to protect against infectious disease, works by 'priming' the immune system with an 'immunogen'. Stimulating immune response, via use of an infectious agent, is known as immunization. Vaccinations involve the administration of one or more immunogens, which can be administered in several forms.

Some modern vaccines are administered after the patient already has contracted a disease, as in the cases of experimental AIDS, cancer and Alzheimer's disease vaccines. Vaccinia given after exposure to smallpox, within the first four days, is reported to attenuate the disease considerably, and vaccination within the first week is known to be beneficial to a degree. The first rabies immunization was given by Louis Pasteur to a child bitten by a rabid dog, subsequently post-exposure immunization to rabies has generally been followed by survival. The essential empiricism behind such immunizations is that the vaccine triggers an immune response more rapidly than the natural infection itself.

Most vaccines are given by hypodermic injection as they are not absorbed reliably through the intestines. Live attenuated polio, some typhoid and some cholera vaccines are given orally in order to produce immunity based in the bowel.

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