The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new influenza vaccine for sale in the United States containing genetically modified organisms. The vaccine, Flublok, includes recombinant DNA technology and an insect virus called baculovirus. Insect cells programmed to produce hemagglutinin, a flu virus protein necessary for entry of the virus into the body’s cells.
Flu vaccines have traditionally been made using egg cultures. The GMO ingredients will allow Flublok’s creator, Protein Sciences Corporation, to speed production of Flublok and similar vaccines in the event of a pandemic.
The capacity to quickly generate abundant amounts of vaccines may have drawbacks. Serious side effects potentially associated with GMO vaccines include the deadly nerve disease Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
Further, two test participants died during clinical trials for Flublok. Despite the risk of side effects, Protein Sciences claims the vaccine is safe for human consumption.
In fall 2012 the FDA also approved Novartis’ Flucelvax, a flu vaccine using cells from dog kidneys. The GMO technology behind such vaccines stems from a $1 billion Health and Human Services grant earmarked to examine speedier manufacturing methods.
Corporate media such as the New York Times, CNN, and Reuters also reported on Flublok. However, their reportage highlighted regulatory and corporate pronouncements emphasizing new manufacturing efficiencies and the anticipated safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, while downplaying the dangerous side effects.
Tara Dodrill, “New GMO Flu Vaccine Using Insect Proteins Approved by FDA,” OffTheGridNews.com, June 26, 2013, http://www.offthegridnews.com/2013/06/26/shocking-new-gmo-flu-vaccine-using-insect-proteins-approved-by-fda/.
Joseph Mercola, “First Genetically Energy Flu Vaccine Now on the Market”, Health Impact News, November 1, 2013, http://healthimpactnews.com/2013/first-genetically-engineered-flu-vaccine-now-on-the-market.
Jonathan Benson, “FDA approves first GMO Flu Vaccine Containing Reprogrammed Insect Virus,” Natural News, February 8, 2013, http://www.naturalnews.com/039013_flu_vaccine_insect_virus_gmos.html.
Corporate Media Coverage:
JoNel Aleccia, “FDA Approves Next Generation, Bug Based Flu Vaccine,” NBC News, January 16, 2013, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/50488562/ns/health-cold_and_flu/ – .UucH0vYo5z8.
Jethro Mullen, “Regulators Approve New Insect-Based Flu Vaccine,” CNN, January 17, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/17/health/fda-flu-vaccine/.
Andrew Pollack, “Rapidly Produced Flu Vaccine Wins FDA Approval,” New York Times, January 16, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/17/business/flublok-a-flu-vaccine-wins-fda-approval.html?_r=0.
Julie Steenhuysen, “Insight: U.S. Government Investment Gives Flu Vaccines a Shot in the Arm”, Reuters, Jan 19, 2013 http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/19/us-flu-vaccines-idUSBRE90I0AI20130119.
Student Researcher: Ryan Mackey (Florida Atlantic University)
Faculty Evaluator: James F. Tracy (Florida Atlantic University)