- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
China’s food and drug administration has approved the world’s first vaccine for the H1N1 virus and the government has announced plans to 5 percent of the Chinese population by the end of this year. Not everyone’s so sure about it though:
Skeptics, however, have a hard time believing that a one-dose vaccine lacking a special substance called an adjuvant — which primes the body to react to the dead virus and produce antigens against it more efficiently and effectively — can work as well as a two-dose one.
"It would be hard for me to imagine a single-shot vaccine without an adjuvant," says Barry R. Bloom, the former dean of Harvard’s School of Public Health. "My understanding in trials here is that you need more than one shot with just the straight virus to get a good enough immune response."
The study that preceded the vaccine’s approval tested it on 1,614 participants from age three to over 60, according to Sinovac’s head of investor relations, Helen Yang.
Stanford researcher David B. Lewis, who is involved in studies that test how adjuvants can improve seasonal flu vaccines, says it could be misleading to lump the results of all age groups together.
The WHO has also expressed some reservations about the size of China’s vaccination plan, noting that "adverse effects that are too rare to show up in a large clinical trial could become apparent when much larger numbers of people receive the vaccine."
Given the speed at which China rushed this vaccine into production and the past record of the country’s pharmaceutical industry, I think I would take my chances with the swine flu.