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[Opinion] “Useless” Vaccine

Posted October. 20, 2005 06:16,   


The vaccine is the greatest life-saving medicine ever developed. It prevents diseases by using pathogenic bacteria to create antibodies or immune cells within a human body.

Vaccines work for some of 30,000 kinds of human illness discovered so far. And as new medicine development gains momentum thanks to advances in genetic engineering, many scientists and doctors predict that vaccines will be able to treat up to 60 percent of all human illnesses in the future.

Vaccines are now being developed not only for prevention, but also for cures. Hopefully it will not be long before a cancer vaccine created from cancer cells will be available.

The first vaccine was developed, based on the idea that once you contract a disease, you will never get the same disease again. Edward Jenner (1749-1823), the developer of the smallpox vaccine, is known as the pioneer in this field. But there are historic records pointing to others. In the 10th century, smallpox was raging in China. In order to contain the disease, Chinese people kept the pus that was discharged from moderately ill patients in storage for a month to weaken its poison before they ground the dried pus and put it in noses of healthy people.

Vaccines work not only medically but also psychologically. But one recent incident greatly undermined the psychological effectiveness of vaccines. The police found that expired flu vaccine which is no longer effective had been distributed and used. This is the so-called ‘useless’ vaccine. Shockingly, as many as 95,000 people have been immunized with this ineffective vaccine by unlicensed brokers and doctors over the past year. Some of them are accused of distributing “useless” vaccine for nearly two decades. They cannot be forgiven for taking advantage of people for the sake of money. People wonder if they would use the same useless vaccine for themselves or their families.

The faulty medicine distribution system is to blame. The health authority has been sitting by and watching ineffective vaccines, which can have dire consequences on national health, be freely distributed and used. The authority should take this opportunity to review the control and distribution system of all medicines, including the flu vaccine, thoroughly and devise measures to prevent the recurrence of similar problems. People are concerned that out-of-date medicines are still out there, threatening their health.

Song Young- eon, Editorial Writer, youngeon@donga.com