From “Should the government make vaccines?” January 1992: Fear of an impending health crisis is pushing policy makers to look at the country’s vaccine needs. One solution: complement the production of private vaccines with a national vaccine authority that would oversee the development and distribution of vaccines that are too risky or unprofitable for the industry.
The idea has already been proposed, only to be overwhelmed by industry objections. But September 11 changed the debate. “The anthrax terrorist activity has clearly highlighted the weaknesses we have in the development and production of vaccines which are important in the fight against terrorism, and at the same time dramatized that we have significant problems with vaccines that are important to civilian sectors, ”says Kenneth Shine, president of the Institute of Medicine.
From “The New Vaccines”, May 2002: The major challenge in developing an AIDS vaccine may well be that HIV infects the very cells, the helper T lymphocytes, which control much of the immune response. HIV also introduces its own genetic pattern into that of the T lymphocyte, making infection of this cell permanent.
And unlike the way infected cells typically respond to most invaders, a fraction of cells carrying HIV may not produce the viral proteins that alert the immune system. Additionally, HIV can disrupt the immune system by rapidly changing portions of its enveloping protein.
Despite these problems, we have good reason to expect that a human vaccine can be developed. After all, the immune system goes to great lengths to destroy the virus through the action of antibodies and lymphocytes.