How Fast Can a Swine Flu Vaccine Be Made and Distributed?

According to Time magazine, four to six months:

[E]ven if the CDC‘s seed stock of virus were to be released to vaccine makers today, it would take the companies anywhere from four to six months before the first inoculation could be ready for public use. That’s because flu-vaccine production – whether for swine or seasonal flu – is time-consuming and laborious, requiring vaccine makers to grow millions of copies of the flu virus in chicken eggs, then purify those bugs into a ready-to-inject formula safe for patients.

This means that between now and September (at the earliest) there’s really only anti-viral drugs, isolation, and collective flu precautions (like staying home from school or work at the first signs of flu symptoms) that stand between humanity and an apparent pandemic.

Wash your hands. Wash your hands a lot.

I’m not being flippant. I went to Walmart recently and bought two large boxes of individually packaged Purell sanitizing hand wipes. My wife carries them in her purse and I carry them in my pocket. But I’ve found that we didn’t buy enough boxes, and I’m going back to get more.

Ironically, I’ve been told that the handlebar on a shopping cart is a vector for the spread of viruses, so before I shop for more hand wipes, I’ll be using one to wipe down the handlebar on the shopping cart that I use.

I hope you seriously think about doing the same.

If it sounds like I’m being paranoid, perhaps I am. But my wife and I have two small children and we’re doing our level best not to bring swine flu home to them. And there’s a certain collective responsibility here. I think that this is a moral issue. If you aren’t particularly concerned for your own health, remember that your negligence could function as a vector for the death of others. Literally.

So wash your hands regularly, please. And stay home from work or school if you develop a cough, congestion, a sneeze, or a fever. And pay attention to the news, and do what health officials advise.

It’s not just the smart thing to do, it’s the moral thing to do.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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2 Responses to How Fast Can a Swine Flu Vaccine Be Made and Distributed?

  1. ahrcanum says:

    Negligence isn’t just a failure in hygiene, it took Obama’s administration more than a week to officially notify American citizens. My hands are clean…

  2. santitafarella says:


    Obama is following the advice of doctors who are infectious disease experts, and has to be careful to walk a fine line between warning and generating panic. It’s Brody’s dilemma in Jaws. When do you close the beaches? It’s not always an obvious call.


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