Vaccinations were developed to protect us from diseases by boosting our immune systems and making our bodies react stronger when we’re exposed to specific germs. Vaccines date back thousands of years but its use has gained momentum in the last century as vaccines are being developed for more and more diseases.
Vaccines are often given to newborn babies as they have very weak immune systems. The current vaccine schedule for babies however, is very stressful for parents as it involves going back to the doctor every few months for booster jabs. The reason for this is because babies don’t react optimally to certain vaccine shots, and therefore need repeat visits to the doctor in order to receive a boost during the first few months of life.
Parents who have been through this experience know how taxing it is to visit the doctor again and again, as their kids will have to undergo the discomfort of facing the needle. Bringing a crying and fussy child to be injected is no small feat, and many parents would prefer it if they didn’t have to undergo this experience multiple times.
Soon, parents may no longer need to make multiple visits to have their child vaccinated. Scientists from the Boston Children’s Hospital have just announced that they’ve developed a version of the Pneumococcal vaccine that produces very strong immune responses in baby monkeys. The next stage of the research is of course to test the vaccine on human babies. This may take another 10 -15 years, but the results on the primate trials are promising enough for the researchers to seriously consider moving to human trials.
Out of all the vaccines available for babies today, more than half require multiple doses in order for the babies to be protected. Some examples of these vaccines include those for Polio, Hepatitis B and Pneumococcal infections. The researchers choose Pneumococcal vaccine as a model experiment in order to determine whether it was possible to make vaccines effective immediately with just one dose, instead of needing to repeatedly boost the vaccine over a period of half a year to one year.
The pneumococcal vaccine was chosen as a sample study because the pneumococcal bacteria is exceptionally harmful for babies and can cause pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis.
The researchers achieved this by changing an additive called an adjuvant to the vaccine, which improves the vaccine’s efficiency. The vaccine with the new adjuvant 3M-052 was then compared to the current vaccine that uses the adjuvant Alum.
After 28 days, the results were phenomenally different, and the baby monkeys with the 3M-052 adjuvant vaccine had a significantly higher immunity compared to those injected with the traditional Pneumococcal vaccine. Besides that, it seems to cause fewer side effects, like inflammation and flu-like symptoms. The unique shape of the adjuvant also prevents the vaccine from floating out of the muscle cells and wreaking havoc on other parts of the body.
In the journey to create better, more effective vaccines, this is definitely an encouraging breakthrough. The results also mean that the same approach can be applied to other vaccines that need multiple doses, eventually leading to all vaccines requiring only a single dose to be effective.
Gentle reminder: The information on this article is not meant to replace a qualified healthcare professional and should not be considered as professional advise. Please seek appropriate medical help when necessary.