October 20, 2004
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UHS handles repercussions of flu vaccine shortage
By Kingson Man
For the Daily
In response to the nationwide flu vaccine
shortage, the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention is working with vaccine manufac-
turers to redistribute doses from the less to
the more needy, while various local, state and
national health care providers are responding in
their own ways.
On campus, Robert Winfield, director of
the University Health Service, said the Uni-
versity has between 3,500 and 4,500 doses of
flu vaccine to give to students. These were all
obtained from France-based Aventis-Pasteur,
the only major vaccine supplier to the United
States this year.
The University also donated 300 doses to
Eastern Michigan University, which is expe-
riencing a severe shortage because it placed
its vaccine order with Chiron, the phar-
maceutical company whose vaccines were
removed from the market over contamination
Because Chiron, formerly one of the two sup-
pliers of flu vaccine, failed its safety inspection,
only half the U.S. supply of 100 million vac-
cines will be distributed around the country.
In addition to the University's stock of vac-
cine, UHS decided yesterday to increase its
reserve of antiviral medications sixfold, Win-
field said. Antiviral medications are used to
reduce the symptoms and duration of a flu
Based on figures from previous years, the
combination of both vaccines and antivirals is
"always enough to meet the needs," Winfield
With just 55 million doses of vaccine on
hand, the CDC established a set of recommen-
dations for vaccinating only high-risk individu-
als, including infants, seniors, pregnant women
and health care workers and caregivers.
While 100 million Americans still fall under
these stricter guidelines, historically only half
of those identified as high-risk individuals get
vaccinated, CDC Director Julie Gerberding
said in a written release. With the media atten-
tion that the vaccine shortage has been getting,
however, some speculate that this year's per-
centage may be much higher.
Michigan, along with New Mexico, Califor-
nia, and Oregon, has taken measures of its own
to preserve vaccines. According to the Michi-
gan Department of Community Health direc-
tor Janet Olszewski, an emergency order issued
by the state's health department would sanction
health care providers for providing a flu shot
to those not considered a priority. The misde-
meanor charge would be punishable by a $200
fine and up to six months in jail.
Acknowledging the state's emergency order,
Winfield said he would comply with the CDC
guidelines. Fliers circulated by UHS in its offic-
es contain vaccination information on one side
and an appeal for healthy individuals to forego
vaccinations on the other. Winfield urged stu-
dents to skip vaccinations this year and instead
practice good hygiene. This focus on the basics
has been reiterated by the UHS "Cover Your
For those who are at high-risk, vaccinations
are currently available for $18 at UHS every
Wednesday. After Nov. 3, they will be offered
Monday through Friday.
In FluMist vaccine, researcher
finds alternative to injection
By Kingson Man
For the Daily
The nationwide flu vaccine shortage has drawn
attention to how these vaccines are produced, with
University researchers leading the way in testing
new vaccine options.
An alternative to the delivery of flu vaccines
through shots is the FluMist vaccine, developed
by Hunein Maassab, epidemiology professor at the
School of Public Health.
The vaccine, which is inhaled
through the nose, uses a weakened
live version of the influenza virus,
unlike the injected vaccine, which
uses a dead version.
FluMist "stops the virus where it
enters the body, generally (through)
the nose," Maassab said.
A current study led by Public
Health Prof. Arnold Monto compares
the effectiveness of the inhaled Flu-
Mist vaccines against the injected
forms. The study, called Flu-vacs,
will involve 2,000 people in the Ann
Arbor, Livonia and Mount Pleasant
communities, but it is not expected to
be completed for about three years.
The FluMist technology has been
licensed to be manufactured by
MedImmune for more than a decade, Five doses of Fli
with the University receiving a 1.5 tive to the inject
percent royalty on its sales. From
millions of fertilized chicken eggs. According to a
company statement, the vaccine manufacturer Chi-
ron failed a safety inspection because of contami-
nations in the process, leading to its vaccines being
removed from the market.
Unlike other "one-time" vaccinations, a yearly
shot is necessary to stay immune to the flu. This is
because the influenza virus mutates each year into a
different form that can overwhelm the human body's
The vaccines that protect against
these viruses are then altered each
year to stay effective.
The vaccine itself is a culmina-
tion of a long process of front-line
investigation, scientific analysis and
a fair amount of guesswork, all of
which happens nearly a year before
the actual start of each flu season.
Efforts to improve the manufac-
turing process of vaccines include
-' trying to replace the eggs with
mammalian cell cultures to incu-
bate the viruses.
The engineering of hardier vac-
cines may eliminate the need for
vaccines to be refrigerated at every
step of the manufacturing and
The World Health Organization
MiSchool of Pubc Health tracks the yearly rise and spread of
ble flu vaccine. new strains of the flu, which often
originate in East Asia. Health care
providers pass along information on localized out-
breaks of new strains of flu, while keeping close
watch for especially lethal or easily transmitted
strains. One such strain, a form of bird flu, is espe-
cially deadly and of concern to scientists.
The virus, which made the leap from birds to
humans, was responsible for the slaughter of all live
chickens in Hong Kong in 1997. It has also been
identified this year in Vietnam, according to a report
in the New England Journal of Medicine.
A panel convened by the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration votes on which strains will be
included in the final vaccine after assessing the
risks, lethality and contagiousness of each virus. The
resulting trivalent vaccine confers broad protection
against the three strains of influenza that stand the
greatest chance of affecting Americans.
this arrangement, the University reaped $250,000 in
royalties last year when FluMist was introduced.
Although the introduction of FluMist was consid-
ered a failure because of the surplus that was eventu-
ally disposed of, MedImmune's profile has been raised
by the current vaccine shortage. In a turnaround that
will undoubtedly benefit the University, MedImmune
is slated to double the production of FluMist to two
million doses to help meet the unexpected national
Half of the U.S. supply of 100 million vaccines
was lost this year due to a manufacturing defect by
one of the major U.S. suppliers, Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention Director Julie Gerberding
said in a news release.
Things went amiss this year in the manufacturing
process, which relies on incubating the viruses in
University Health Service staff member Grace Bell holds one dose of the flu vaccine received from pharmaceutical
company Aventis-Pasteur. Chiron, the only other producer of the vaccine, had its entire supply of vaccine removed from the
market because of safety and contamination concerns.
Isolating single atoms is first step to building
'revolutionizing' quantum computer
Three cadmium ions fluoresce under laser light.
By Nalla Moreira
Daily Staff Reporter
In a windowless basement laboratory glowing with
green lasers, physics Prof. Chris Monroe is taking the
first steps toward cracking every code that protects data
on the Internet.
His research on quantum behavior of atoms may help
make possible the first quantum computer, a technol-
ogy that would theoretically be able to quickly decrypt
schemes that encode information from credit card num-
bers to national security matters.
Most encryption today relies on the fact that factoring
a number - or figuring out which prime numbers can
be multiplied to get that number - is extremely dif-
ficult. For instance, although it's easy to get the number
15 by multiplying 5 and 3, it isn't so simple to figure out
what to multiply to get 5,681.
In fact, large numbers are so difficult to factor that it
took a team of supercomputers six months to factor a
150-digit number, Monroe said. The computers searched
through millions of numbers by trial and error before pro-
ducing their result - a task perfectly suited for a quan-
tum computer, which stores its information in atoms.
"Quantum computers could factor numbers fast, if
we could ever build one," he said. "If you could factor
efficiently, you could break codes."
In a regular computer, each input to the computer
This means that each atom in a quantum computer -
called a quantum "bit," or qubit - could represent mul-
tiple inputs simultaneously. Unlike in a regular computer,
where each bit represents either a 0 or a 1, each qubit can
denote 0, 1 or both 0 and 1 at the same time.
To understand how quantum objects like atoms behave,
Monroe and his research group study single atoms trapped
in a vacuum. The atoms must be studied in a vacuum
because, through an oddity of quantum physics, they only
exhibit quantum behavior when they are neither observed
nor in contact with other matter.
"We use trapped ions - these are atoms with an elec-
tron stripped off, so it's a charged atom," said Rackham
student Patty Lee, one of Monroe's graduate students.
The charged ions can then be trapped and manipulated
using an electric field, she said.
Lasers are used to observe the atoms after manipula-
tion, and to change their state if necessary, Lee added.
In March, Monroe's group made a particularly
important advance. They managed to show "entan-
glement" between a photon, or a particle of light, and
an atom. Entanglement means that the atom's state
and the photon's state are linked - if the photon is
observed in one state, the atom must also exist in that
state at the moment the photon is observed.
Monroe's group is one of only three groups in the
world that have shown entanglement between particles,
Lee said. The work was published in the March issue of
the journal Nature.
Entanglement is important for quantum computing
because it allows simultaneous control of many par-
ticles, said Rackham student Mark Acton, another of
Monroe's students. Chains of entangled qubits can rep-
resent many large numbers at once by denoting many
states of 0 and 1.
"If you had many ions entangled, if you do some-
MUSKEGON (AP) - A potent group of
toxic compounds has been discovered in a com-
mon algae found in Muskegon Lake and the poi-
sons, blamed on the invasive zebra mussels, may
be present in other Michigan lakes.
Imported to the Great Lakes by freighters,
the mollusks have increased water clarity
in lakes by eating algae as they filter huge
volumes of water through their tiny bodies.
A down side is that zebra mussels eat only
nutritious -algae - they spit out algae con-
taining toxic compounds.
The result: Blue-green algal blooms, which
can contain microcystins, are proliferating
in relatively clean lakes across Michigan and
other states, including Muskegon and White
lakes, Lake Leelanau in northern Michigan.
When exposed to humans, microcystins can
cause skin irritations and abdominal pain.
The blooms create a blue-green layer of
scum on the water's surface that looks like
floating paint. Scientists who recently tested
algae scum on Muskegon Lake found elevat-
ed concentrations of microcystins.
"I don't want to scare people, but the lev-
els of microcystins we found are significant."
said Gary Fahnenstiel, director of the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's
Lake Michigan Field Station. "These are very
high concentrations and are on the same order
of magnitude as the highest concentrations of
microcystins ever reported."
Fahnenstiel, a leading expert on algae, said
people should avoid swimming, wading, wind-
surfing, canoeing or water-skiing in areas of
~IKr. -E UL LOUO L~IIy U' I 1) ort. - syo un-is - onroe
TOP: Mark Acton points out to David Hucul the series of lenses and mirrors
used in his group's Ion trapping device. Hucul and Acton conduct research
for physics Prof. Chris Monroe. BOTTOM: A close-up of the ion trap that
allows the group to capture images of single ions and study quantum
physics that may apply to quantum computing in the future.