Jason Kottke has a great post on how the H1N1 vaccine is made.
The most striking feature of the H1N1 flu vaccine manufacturing process is the 1,200,000,000 chicken eggs required to make the 3 billion doses of vaccine that may be required worldwide. There are entire chicken farms in the US and around the world dedicated to producing eggs for the purpose of incubating influenza viruses for use in vaccines. No wonder it takes six months from start to finish. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
Of course as complicated as it is to find 1,200,000,000 eggs to make the vaccine, those eggs donâ€™t work nearly as well as they had hoped.
Side note. You may have noticed that the H1N1 vaccine has been difficult to find in some places around the US. The vaccine manufacturers have said that the Pandemic H1N1/09 virus when combined with the standard laboratory virus does not grow as fast in the eggs as they anticipated. The batches of antigens from each egg have been smaller than expected, up to five or even ten times smaller in some cases. Hence the slow rollout of the vaccine.
Well Wendy, Oliver, and I caught H1N1 (for those of you who are following on Twitter this is redundant). Oliver and Mark had been vaccinated and while Mark was fine, Oliver was not. Wendy and I also got horrific secondary infections along with it which made us even sicker. All I can say is that you need to go and get the vaccination as I can really understand how people die from it. Wendy and I were in incredible pain, had trouble breathing, ran really, really high fevers and still days later are not feeling well. After seeing my doctor, he said it was going to be a long time until I felt normal again.
We arenâ€™t sure who brought it home. Wendy works with the public and I work in a homeless shelter which was asked to house homeless people who have H1N1. While I donâ€™t expect Safeway employees to get the vaccination first, I was a little disgusted that none of our staff were given the chance to get H1N1 vaccinations by the same health district that was sending people infected with the disease to us to be taken care of. I know how big the Saskatoon Health Region is but you would have thought in some of the pandemic planning that is done, shelter provider staff would have been seen as a high risk people group to catch the disease. Itâ€™s weird as these patients are refused services by hotels and motels and yet the expectations is that shelter staff will take care of them, despite the fact that most our housing is congregate housing in dorms. On my to-do list is to figure out a way that the next time this happens, our shelter and other housing providers get a little more care and support.
It wasnâ€™t a lot of fun being that sick. Fevers of 105 get on my nerves quickly. It also wasnâ€™t fun seeing Wendy that sick and especially seeing Oliver get that sick again (itâ€™s been a bad year for the little guy). A couple of quick thanks though. Mark was kept home so he didnâ€™t infect the half of his school whose parents decided not to vaccinate their kids and he was a lot of help taking care of Oliver while Wendy and I were bed ridden. Also as Wendy was tweeting some of our suffering to Twitter (and then to Facebook), we got a call from Brenda England who gave some wonderful advice and that was to get the Tamiflu as soon as possible. Finally, Gloria phoned up and asked if she could bring by some food. Wendy called her back and gave her a list. I am not sure what she brought but there was fresh grapes on that list and on a day when I felt beyond horrible, those grapes tasted amazing.
So the Calgary Flames jumped to the head of the line when it came to H1N1 vaccinations. Are we surprised? Itâ€™s long been a practice in Canada where professional and semi-pro athletes get preferential medical treatment. They get a MRI within hours while the rest of us wait months. Elective surgery comes within days while we wait forever. Yes you can say that their job depends on it but a lot of people whose jobs depend on being able to work pain free get stuck on long waiting lists and have to go on disability.
So naturally the team doctors assumed the Calgary Flames could just jump the queue and I assume the person who set up the private clinic thought it was business as usual like it had been so many times in the past. Now you have the Premier determined to â€œget to the bottom of itâ€ but the reality is that this kind of stuff has been going on since the winter of 1980 when the Calgary Flames moved from Atlanta and stuff like this happens to almost all pro sports teams.
If Premier Ed Stelmach wants to get to the bottom of it, why not show waiting times for the Edmonton Oilers, Edmonton Eskimos, Calgary Stampeders, and the Calgary Flames for surgical and medical procedures and compare it the rest of the population who does not play professional sports. I assume they jumped the queue in almost all cases.