Vaccines gained heightened importance in the context of bioterrorism. Infection and the spread of disease via acts of bioterrorism are imminent and vaccines have become an important and practical means of preventing and arresting bioterrorist attacks. The discussion considers developments and issues in bioterrorism research efforts. Current and Proposed Efforts
The current trend in bioterrorism research, particularly on vaccine development, is towards the development of recombinant protein vaccines (Wu-Pong & Rojanasakul, 2008) and formulation of vaccines for the rapid initiation of defensive immunity following a non-invasive delivery of the vaccine such as orally or via nasal spray (Plotkin, Orenstein & Offit, 2008). Recombinant protein vaccines emerged from the studies by replacing and combining genetic materials to retain the genetic structure but changing genetic information.
Since the basis of recombinant protein vaccines is the human genome information and DNA sequencing, these vaccines should have less side effects. Rapid initiation of defensive immunity targets protection against pathogens invading the body via various modes such as the skin or respiratory system. These target both new vaccines and improved inoculation after a bioterrorist attack.
Concurrently, the Vaccine Research Center of the National Institute of Health (NIH) is focusing on three research areas including vaccines for potent viruses such as Ebola, Lassa and Marburg, vaccine immunology, and process of viral infection and neutralization (Sullivan, 2007). Proposed efforts include heightened research on recombinant protein vaccines focusing on potent viruses as part of contingency efforts against bioterrorist attacks and pharmacogenetics focusing on the varying immunology of certain population groups to ensure the effectiveness of vaccines for different population groups (Plotkin et al.
, 2008). Existing or Potential Obstacles The continuing obstacles to vaccine development as part of bioterrorism research include the identifying the focus and priority of research efforts, linking global efforts, sustaining the amount and continuity of funding, and addressing ethical issues in vaccine trials. Changes in focus and priority are challenges to research efforts in vaccine development.
The focus of vaccine research has changed from a product development effort of pharmaceutical companies to a balance of discovery and product development as a joint public-private effort in recent years and now to the focus on discovery spearheaded by national and international research agencies (Dang et al. , 2008). The flow of funds into vaccine research is reactive to need linked to prospects of profitability for pharmaceutical companies and security issues for national agencies. This limits a broader and deeper vaccine research against bioterrorism threats. Global efforts at vaccine research remain fragmented (Dang et al.
, 2008). Ethical issues in testing vaccines also evolve but the problem of lack of clear standards on the ethical limits and responsibility in vaccine trial studies remain (Tarantola et al. , 2007). Necessary Agencies and Disciplines required for Success The key agency involved in vaccine research is the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) under which are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH). The research focus of the CDC is on developing contingency plans based on vaccine developments via the Office of Public Health Preparedness.
The NIH is the national research arm covering vaccine development. (Katz, 2002) Vaccine development under anti-bioterrorism involves multiple dimensions and requires the cooperation of the sciences with economics, political science, psychology and sociology disciplines to cover vaccine research and development, funding and cost-benefit, security and containment, response to bioterrorist attacks, and community welfare issues. Existing Funding Sources There are alternative sources of funding for vaccine research and development.
Government grants comprise a large portion of funding obtainable via federal, state or international research grant programs. Commercial investments also significantly contribute to funding accessible through the sponsorship programs of pharmaceutical companies or venture and sales agreements with companies. Foundation grants also support vaccine research in partnership with the academe, government agencies, and non-government organizations. (Weinberg, 2009) Funding involves obligations that limit the direction and scope of research requiring a compromise between the sources of funding and researchers.
Opinion on Ranking in the Research Priority List Vaccine development as part of anti-bioterrorism should be high in the research priority list. Based on the probability of attack and severity of impact, bioterrorism ranks high. Vaccines comprise a practical and necessary preventive and responsive action in case of bioterrorist attacks. Vaccines are long-term solutions with the impact observable in the short-term through reductions in cases and limiting the spread of infection and preventing infection and spread in the long-term. Most of the bioterrorist weapons emerging are potent and contagious.
Vaccines could mitigate the entry of potent viruses into the body or arrest its spread. Although vaccine research in other areas apart from anti-bioterrorism is equally important such as HIV and cancer vaccines, the impact of bioterrorism is sweepingly fast and difficult to control. Bioterrorist attacks are also imminent with current technology. Conclusion Vaccine development under bioterrorism research is an important and immediately needed effort. Government agencies and the private sector should establish partnerships to hurdle issues in vaccine research and expedite results. References
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