Agents of Bioterrorism: Pathogens and Their Weaponization

By Geoffrey Zubay | Go to book overview

APPENDIX 2
THE SEARCH FOR VACCINES

William Edstrom

The fountain of scientific successes includes drugs, medical devices, and prophylactic modalities such as vaccines. The following overview examines the history and formulation of vaccines, along with case studies not only of the successes but also of failures to develop safe and effective vaccines despite decades of intensive efforts.

It is good, of course, for people to have access to drugs and devices when disease strikes, but it is even better for people not to become sick in the first place, hence the importance of preventive medicine and biodefenses. Safe and effective vaccines enable people to stay healthy and avoid the pain, suffering, and sometimes even premature death that often accompany disease.

Given a hypothetical choice of becoming sick and then taking therapeutics to treat the illness or taking a safe and effective vaccine and not getting sick, most people would prefer the latter. There are pathogens for which no treatment exists and vaccines offer the only pharmaceutical protection available. For the many pathogens for which neither drugs nor vaccines exist, simultaneous research and development of both are desirable.


HISTORY

The two public health interventions that have had the greatest impact on public health and saved the most lives have been efforts to ensure the availability of potable water and vaccines. A handful of vaccines prevent illness and death for millions of people each year.45 Vaccination, which is synonymous with immunization, has been defined as “protection of susceptible individuals from disease by the administration of a living modified agent, a suspension of killed organisms, or an inactivated toxin.”38 The word vaccine comes from vaccinia, the microorganism used by Edward Jenner in effectively vaccinating humans

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