I wanted to use the title “Vaccines for dummies” because “for dummies” is often used in titles of informative, how-to books, but I don’t want worried nondummies to think they are being insulted.
There have been a lot of discussions and news reports on Dengvaxia, the antidengue vaccine produced by pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur, which had been reportedly administered to some 700,000 Filipino children in recent years, through the Department of Health.
Now parents are nervous upon learning from Sanofi itself that those who had been given the vaccine but never had dengue would have to watch out for more unlikely (I’m using a mild word here) dengue effects when they get sick from a dengue mosquito bite. On the other hand, those who had had dengue already and were given the vaccine would be more protected.
That’s indeed a huh? moment there (as in, ano raw?) for those of us who are not immunologists. I take it to mean that you are better off not getting the Dengvaxia vaccine if you have never had dengue. A case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
It is befuddling especially for the majority of us in this world who do not understand vaccines, how they are developed in the lab, what they are made of, how they work against deadly viruses, for whom and for how long.
In the case of Dengvaxia, for example, why would it not protect those who never had dengue, and why would their getting vaccinated not be an advantage because of some potential unlikely/adverse effects when dengue strikes? This potential “worse than the disease” scenario is driving many to anger and worry. For blame throwers, this is a great opportunity to rock, rattle and roll.
I did listen in to the live-on-TV press conference of Sanofi officials. The sense I got from it is: Not to worry just yet. After all, there is yet no record of a vaccinated person getting badly hit by the virus for the first time. And what about those who’ve had dengue and then got vaccinated, will they not get sick of dengue at all, or just a mild case of it? Can vaccination be reversed?
The other thing I picked up is that it is not really the vaccine, folks, it is the dengue mosquito that is to blame. Sure. Still I’d like to compare 1) a nonvaccinated first-time dengue patient, 2) a vaccinated first-time dengue patient, and 3) a second-time dengue patient who got vaccinated after his first bout with dengue and before his second bout.
Listening to the explanations, one gets the idea that No. 2 is the most compromised. So it is not just the mosquito, folks, it seems it is also the vaccine. So what about it?
I did my own reading on vaccines. Here are basics from the College of Physicians of Philadelphia website.
“The story of vaccines did not begin with the first vaccine – Edward Jenner’s use of material from cowpox pustules to provide protection against smallpox. Rather, it begins with the long history of infectious disease in humans, and in particular, with early uses of smallpox material to provide immunity to that disease.
“Evidence exists that the Chinese employed smallpox inoculation as early as 1000 CE. It was practiced in Africa and Turkey as well, before it spread to Europe and the Americas.
“Edward Jenner’s innovations, begun with his successful 1796 use of cowpox material to create immunity to smallpox, quickly made the practice widespread….
“Louis Pasteur’s 1885 rabies vaccine was the next to make an impact on human disease. And then, at the dawn of bacteriology, developments rapidly followed. Antitoxins and vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus, anthrax, cholera, plague, typhoid, tuberculosis, and more were developed through the 1930s.
“The middle of the 20th century was an active time for vaccine research and development. Methods for growing viruses in the laboratory led to rapid discoveries and innovations, including the creation of vaccines for polio. Researchers targeted other common childhood diseases such as measles, mumps, and rubella, and vaccines for these diseases reduced the disease burden greatly.”
Without the jargon, it simply means using the virus to fight the virus. Pray tell, what in the world is contained in that Dengvaxia ampule?
Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.