WHO reports progress on H5N1 vaccines

first_imgFeb 16, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – The World Health Organization (WHO) today reported “encouraging progress” on development of H5N1 avian influenza vaccines, while cautioning that global capacity to make the vaccines remains very limited.Following a 2-day meeting of vaccine experts in Geneva, the WHO said new vaccines aimed at various strains of H5N1—considered the likeliest candidate to spark a flu pandemic—look promising.”For the first time, results presented at the meeting have convincingly demonstrated that vaccination with newly developed avian influenza vaccines can bring about a potentially protective immune response against strains of H5N1 virus found in a variety of geographical locations,” the WHO said in a news release.”Some of the vaccines work with low doses of antigen, which means that significantly more vaccine doses can be available in case of a pandemic,” the agency added.However, the statement continues, “WHO stresses that the world still lacks the manufacturing capacity to meet potential global pandemic influenza vaccine demand as current capacity is estimated at less than 400 million doses per year of trivalent seasonal influenza vaccine.” The current world population is more than 6 billion.Sixteen companies from 10 countries are developing prototype pandemic flu vaccines against H5N1, the WHO said. Five of those companies also are developing vaccines against other avian flu strains, including H9N2, H5N2, and H5N3. More than 40 clinical trials have been completed or are under way, most of them involving healthy adults. But some companies have begun clinical trials in children and the elderly.So far, all the vaccines were safe and well tolerated in the groups tested, the agency said. Most of the companies are using vaccine strains corresponding to H5N1 viruses provided by WHO collaborating laboratories.Because pandemic flu viruses are products of constant evolution, no one knows how well any of the prototype vaccines under development would work against a pandemic H5N1 virus, but experts hope that the vaccines would provide some protection. Once a pandemic strain emerges, it is expected to take at least 6 months to produce a vaccine precisely matching it.Today’s statement strikes a different tone from that of a report on flu research released by the WHO last November. That report, based on a meeting of 22 scientists in September, said vaccine developments at that point did not look promising. One problem cited was that H5N1 viruses had branched off into a number of different subgroups, and vaccines that worked well against one subgroup did not work well against others.The November report also said many fundamental questions about H5N1 vaccines remained to be answered. Because of the many unknowns, the report cautioned governments against stockpiling pre-pandemic vaccines. Today’s brief statement does not mention stockpiling.The WHO meeting drew more than 100 flu vaccine experts, who heard and discussed information on more than 20 projects. The aim was to review progress in vaccine development and reach a consensus on future priorities. The meeting was the third of its kind in 2 years, the WHO said.The statement does not give an estimate of how many doses of H5N1 vaccines have been made so far, and further information was not immediately available.In 2006 the WHO launched its global pandemic influenza action plan, a program expected to cost $10 billion over 10 years, the statement noted. One goal of the plan is to enable developing countries to build their own flu vaccine production facilities.In launching the program last October, the WHO called for an urgent effort to boost vaccine production capacity and develop better vaccines, while cautioning that it would take 3 to 5 years for the effort to bear fruit.See also:Feb 16 WHO statement on vaccine developmenthttp://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/notes/2007/np07/en/index.htmlNov 2, 2006, CIDRAP News story “WHO report calls H5N1 vaccine stockpiling premature”Oct 23, 2006, CIDRAP News story “WHO seeks urgent push for pandemic flu vaccines”last_img read more

Track looking to improve on road

first_imgWith just two weeks until the Big Ten Championships, both the University of Wisconsin men’s and women’s track and field teams will compete this weekend in one of their last major competitions of the indoor season.While the women’s team and most of the men’s team will be heading to Iowa State, a select group of eight distance runners will also be travelling to Washington.Although both teams host a meet next weekend in Madison, the Iowa State and Washington meets are much more meaningful. The format of the Iowa State meet — one that is consistent with the Big Ten Championships — is one reason why it is a key opportunity for the team to compete.“We can take advantage of the fact that this is one of the few preparations for athletes competing over multiple days,” men’s head coach Ed Nuttycomb said. “Preparing for back-to-back days is not easy at this high level.”The athletes see this meet as not only an opportunity for personal training, but also for sizing up the competition.Though the women’s team emphasizes the Big Ten Championships as clearly their most significant meet, women’s head coach Jim Stintzi realizes this weekend’s competitions are important as well.“There are about five to six really fast tracks [in the country], and there are big meets at three of them this weekend,” Stintzi said. “This meet is the biggest and most competitive before Big Tens with teams from all over (the country).”For many of the Badgers, this weekend is an opportunity to achieve marks that could qualify them for the NCAA Indoor Championships Mar. 13-14. Because the indoor season is relatively short, there are only a few chances for atheletes to try and reach NCAA qualifying standards.One of the athletes aiming for a spot in the NCAA field is Nate Larkin in the 60-meter hurdles. He clocked a 7.93 earlier in the season, which puts him only .02 seconds away from an NCAA provisional cut of 7.91. While an automatic cut guarantees you a spot at the championships, a provisional cut is a little different.“[The provisional time] puts you on a nationals list and then from that they pull the top 16,” Larkin said.The distance runners going to Washington are also focused on this goal.“[The meet] has many of the better distance runners in the country,” Nuttycomb said. “It’s the prime opportunity to qualify for (the NCAA Championships) and prepare for the championship part of the season.”On the women’s side, Gwen Jorgensen has an automatic qualifying time in the 3,000 meters while freshmen Dorcas Akinniyi and Jessica Flax have provisional qualifying times in the pentathlon.This doesn’t mean, though, they will necessarily compete in these events before the Big Ten Championships. Instead, this weekend, Stintzi is having Jorgensen run the 5,000 meters, while Akinniyi and Flax will compete in hurdles and long jump. Part of the reason for this is the nature of the events.“[The pentathlon] is too hard on the body,” Stintzi said. “You get a certain number of shots at [a qualifying time], but it is counterproductive if you do it every weekend.”Akinniyi realizes none of the meets mean as much as the Big Ten conference meet, so she is willing to work on whatever the coaches want her to focus on.“The last couple of meets that I didn’t do pentathlons in, [the coaches] put me in long jump and we always do hurdles,” Akinniyi said. “In these meets, we do what we need to work on so it’s basically just another practice, another time to compete — there’s nothing like a race.”Still, the woman’s team points to their performance at the Big Ten Championships as indicative of the success of their season.“It all comes down to Big Tens — you have no record,” Stintzi said. “[At this meet], we want to make progress for each person competing individually and in relays so [we] are on target to be at our peak for Big Tens.”last_img read more