Are Americans obligated to use an unproven vaccine to help protect people in other countries from the flu pandemic?
That is the crux of a debate over adjuvants — a class of substances that somewhat mysteriously increase the potency of vaccines. Early studies suggest that adjuvants (pronounced AD-joo-vants) could allow four times as many people to be immunized against the H1N1 pandemic influenza with a given amount of vaccine. So with the world facing possibly severe shortages of vaccine, the World Health Organization and some health experts have been calling for the use of adjuvants to stretch the vaccine supply.
“We have always argued that using adjuvanted vaccine would leave more vaccine for poor people,” said Marie-Paule Kieny, director of the World Health Organization’s initiative for vaccine research.