MF59 = Squallene.
Last I was aware, this is still an unlicensed adjuvant. The following comments were sent in response to this article - these are not my observations, but, I liked them so much, I'm sharing.
1) Older Americans do not die more often from influenza because the existing flu vaccine is less effective. They die becaude the existing vaccine is relatively ineffective to all who receive it. Older recipients who are exposed to influenza die more often simply because older adults inherently have weaker immune systems, and secondary infections are more likely to lead to death in older adults.
2) NBC's Bob Bazell, who also repeats CDC's pro-vaccine mantra, also acknowledged that most flu deaths are in adults over 65 and many have weakened immune systems because of underlying illnesses. In the end, Bazell states that the real reason to get a flu shot is simply to patriotically help support vaccine producers:
"...The government's goal, then, is to nudge up demand and production slowly. You can do your part: Get a flu shot. You'll help increase overall demand."
3) Notably, most persons who, according to CDC, die from influenza do not in fact die from the flu. The CDC's flu death statistics (which are repeated without question) are highly probematic and have been the subject of a recent article in Harpers and an on-going discussion at BMJ. Notably, the article does not discuss the controversy over the CDC's self-serving inflation of flu deaths.
4) The CDC and other government agencies want Americans vaccinated against the flu for various institutional and economic reasons that have little to do with improving the health of most Americans. The CDC's orchestrated pro-flu vaccine annual propaganda campaign is a form of operant conditioning and would not be possible without reporters who do not tell the full story. Reporters could begin by questioning the motives of those who promote the use of ineffective and/or unsafe vaccines. See:
"The Seven-Step Recipe for Generating Interest in, and Demand for, Flu (or any other) Vaccination]" -- Planning for the 2004-05 Influenza Vaccination Season: A Communication Situation Analysis, Glen Nowak, Ph.D., Associate Director for Communications
National Immunization Program
5) Last, the article's intent -- or that of NIH and CDC sources -- was to promote the use of a vaccine adjuvant (MF59) that is unlicensed in the United States. Government health agencies want to use this unlicensed squalene-based adjuvant in prototype and unlicensed Avian Flu, anthrax (rPA), HIV and other vaccines. Their apparent means of doing so is to place the adjuvant in a vaccine that is already used (i.e. flu vaccine) and to infer (through friendly reporters) that this is simply a minor change.
Using a more powerful squalene-based adjuvant on older adults allows introduction of an adjuvant with known serious autoimmune risks in a population where the inevitable adverse reactions can easily be hidden with other medical complications inherent in aging. Thus, no deaths or illnesses will be attributed to the squalene in MF59, and the FDA will then declare it to be "safe and effective" and allow it to be used in numerous other vaccines under development. Manufacturers of these biodefense and pandemic vaccines (and of their component parts, like Chiron's MF59) will be protected by the BioShield II pharma indemnity legislation passed in Dec 2005.
Notably, the article promoted Chiron's MF59 with innocuous euphemisms that make it sound like hi-test Gatorade ("revved-up", "immune-boosting", "pumped up", "souped-up") -- but it did not mention the word "squalene" once.
Nor did it mention the on-going controversy over illegal military testing of squalene in anthrax vaccine. You can read some objective journalism on this subject in the Newport News Daily Press. See:
These many omissions are the sad irony of the article, not the overstated CDC figures on flu deaths.
Even sadder is the unquestioning promotion of the vaccination of all American children as a means of limiting the risk of flu-related death to older Americans who will inevitably die of age-related illnesses -- regardless whether they are vaccinated.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press
All Rights Reserved
Associated Press Online
April 17, 2006 Monday 11:13 PM GMT
SECTION: WASHINGTON DATELINE
LENGTH: 751 words
HEADLINE: Experts Say Elderly Need Better Flu Shot
BYLINE: By LAURAN NEERGAARD, AP Medical Writer
Put aside hypothetical worries about bird flu: Regular flu already kills elderly Americans in droves every winter because the vaccine simply doesn't work as well inside aging bodies as young ones.
The National Institutes of Health wants to strengthen flu shots destined for the elderly, part of a push to get the nation to start treating influenza's yearly attack as seriously as the threat of some super-flu striking in the future.
The message: Why wait for a pandemic to benefit from better flu vaccines and treatments?
"My great frustration (is) in trying to shake the cage and say, 'We have not, by any means, optimized how we approach seasonal flu,'" Dr. Anthony Fauci, the NIH's infectious disease chief, told The Associated Press.
Topping his do-better list: testing whether higher vaccine doses or adding immune-boosting compounds to the shots some of the same compounds already being studied to fight bird flu would improve the elderly's protection against regular winter influenza.
In Europe, U.S. flu-shot supplier Chiron Corp. already sells a revved-up version just for people over age 65. Studies mostly from Italy suggest that adding a chemical called MF59 to Chiron's regular flu shot spurs a modestly better immune response in older people, especially the frail.
Chiron wouldn't say if it plans to eventually bring that shot, called Fluad, to the United States; it sells about 20 million doses abroad. Instead, Chiron's U.S. focus has been on testing whether MF59 could improve experimental vaccines against bird flu.
But Fluad is among the approaches catching Fauci's interest as he plans new research into improved elder vaccines.
Also, at least one well-known vaccine research center, at St. Louis University School of Medicine, is planning a study of higher flu vaccine doses for the elderly this fall.
And NIH recently began recruiting 150 U.S. volunteers to study just which parts of the immune system change as we age to make flu a more serious threat, basic biological underpinnings that remain a mystery despite influenza's unrelenting yearly toll.
Here's the sad irony: Influenza kills 36,000 Americans in an average winter, many more during harsh flu seasons and people over age 65 make up 90 percent of those deaths. Yet flu vaccine is less effective in the people who need it most, protecting roughly 60 percent of elderly recipients compared with 75 percent to 90 percent of young healthy people.
Just as the body's physical abilities typically slow with age, the immune system can become sluggish. It's not impossible to rev it back up. Some earlier research suggests that giving four to six times the normal dose of a flu vaccine component could double the elderly's immune response, says Dr. John Treanor, a University of Rochester vaccine specialist.
The question is whether pumped-up vaccines for the elderly would provide enough extra protection to be worth it. Some previous attempts have found only slight improvements, and souped-up vaccines cost more to make.
"Until recently there was a lot of reluctance to do anything that would make the vaccine more expensive," Treanor says, speculating that cost might be a key reason that Chiron debuted its Fluad shot in Europe.
A stronger vaccine might also come with more side effects, cautions Dr. Donald J. Kennedy of St. Louis University.
Still, there are low-risk strategies to test. Aside from the simple higher-dose study his university colleagues are planning, Kennedy wonders if giving seniors a flu shot plus a second vaccine the FluMist nasal spray made of live but weakened flu virus might activate different immune pathways to improve protection.
Ultimately, what may protect the elderly the most is when flu's main spreaders healthy young people, especially schoolchildren start getting vaccinated in high-enough numbers to stem the virus' tide.
For the first time this fall, all children from age six months to 5 years will be recommended for a flu shot. Until now, the government pushed childhood flu vaccine just for chronically ill youngsters and healthy tots up to age 2.
Expect even more children to be on the vaccine list as early as 2007; already under discussion is the 5- to 9-year-old crowd.
And with a record 120 million vaccine doses expected this year far more than the most ever given, 83 million doses the government is preparing to encourage inoculations for healthy 20-, 30- and 40-somethings this fall, too.