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The New York Times has an article regarding the use of adjuvants in the flu vaccine. Adjuvants are additives which boost the effectiveness of a vaccine, consequently permitting the vaccine to be stretched as it were, like thinly slicing the roast to feed more people. Since more commonly now, only proteins or protein fragments are used in vaccines, where previously a weakened or dead pathogen was administered. The difference has resulted in the use of adjuvants to enhance the effectiveness of the vaccine. Alum is commonly used in tetanus and hepatitis vaccines to boost the vaccine’s effectiveness and is generally considered a weak adjuvant and safe for use. Alum is not effective in the flu vaccine. Other adjuvants used in the past include: gram-negative bacteria, cholesterol, fatty acids, paraffins and vegetable oils. Adjuvants are foreign bodies and produce an adverse reaction in the body. The purpose of the adjuvant is to produce a reaction in the body. The type of reaction it produces however cannot be guaranteed and therein lies the conundrum. It can be as simple as pain at the injection site, fatigue and swelling. There is also argument that it can trigger more substantial responses, such as autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis. The debate, explained in the article is whether or not adjuvants should be used. The United States, at least for now, is not permitting the use of adjuvants in its vaccine for the flu.
For more information on the use of adjuvants:
What’s your opinion?