Article ID: CBB603005256

It Wasn't Supposed to Be a Coronavirus: The Quest for an Influenza A(h5n1)-Derived Vaccine and the Limits of Pandemic Preparedness (2020)


The COVID-19 pandemic has raised questions about what efforts were made across the world to prepare governments and healthcare systems for such an event. This spotlight article looks at developments made in “pre-pandemic preparedness planning” following a number of outbreaks of influenza type A virus in 1997. At that time, a specific avian influenza subtype, referred to as A(H5N1), wreaked havoc among fowl but also infected humans through direct transmission. The potential for slight genetic mutations that could make A(H5N1) more infectious, allowing human-to-human transmission, presented the threat of a deadly influenza pandemic. As a result, the U.S. government (and others coordinating through the World Health Organization) launched a pandemic preparation plan, including strategies to develop vaccines against A(H5N1) and its genetic lineages each year. This spotlight article discusses the events that led to the specific concern about A(H5N1) among public health officials, as well as early efforts to derive and stockpile an appropriate vaccine to protect against a possible pandemic. This perspective presents the challenges the world has faced, in recent history, in striving to keep one step ahead of pandemic threats.

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Authors & Contributors
Jahn, Stefanie
Honigsbaum, Mark
Bresalier, M C
Jones, David S.
Poliana Maia
Justi, Rosaria
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Mefisto: Rivista di medicina, filosofia, storia
Medizin, Gesellschaft, und Geschichte
Science and Education
Social Studies of Science
Journal of Global History
I. B. Tauris
University of Cambridge (United Kingdom)
Cambridge University
Cambridge University Press
University of Chicago Press
University of California Press
Public health
Medicine and society
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Infectious diseases
London (England)
Democratic Republic of the Congo
New Zealand
Ottoman Empire
21st century
20th century, early
20th century
19th century
Early modern

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