The first doses of a vaccine for swine flu won’t be available for four to six months, an official from the World Health organisation said on conference call this morning.
“It’s a long journey, even if you know by heart all the steps,” the official said.
Why so long?
- First scientists must isolate the virus. This has been done. The virus is 99% identical in all identified cases, which helps us fight it but makes the isolated lethality in Mexico all the more mysterious.
- Next the virus has to be tweaked to make it more suitable for manufacturing. This process is underway, but not yet completed.
- The tweaked version of the virus is then shipped to manufacturers, who then have to adapt it to their own production techniques. We’re not at this stage yet.
- Next the the virus is injected into eggs, where it is cultivate.
- The eggs are then harvested, and the vaccine formulated from them.
The good news is that the process has begun. The bad news is that we’re a long way off the the vaccine, which means that many, many more people will get the Oink. And since we don’t know why it is killing so many people in Mexico, we cannot know how lethal the likely pandemic will be.