China rushes swine flu vaccine into production

China's food and drug administration has approved the world's first vaccine for the H1N1 virus and the government has announced plans to 5 percent of the Chinese population by the end of this year. Not everyone's so sure about it though:

Skeptics, however, have a hard time believing that a one-dose vaccine lacking a special substance called an adjuvant -- which primes the body to react to the dead virus and produce antigens against it more efficiently and effectively -- can work as well as a two-dose one.

"It would be hard for me to imagine a single-shot vaccine without an adjuvant," says Barry R. Bloom, the former dean of Harvard's School of Public Health. "My understanding in trials here is that you need more than one shot with just the straight virus to get a good enough immune response."

The study that preceded the vaccine's approval tested it on 1,614 participants from age three to over 60, according to Sinovac's head of investor relations, Helen Yang.

Stanford researcher David B. Lewis, who is involved in studies that test how adjuvants can improve seasonal flu vaccines, says it could be misleading to lump the results of all age groups together.

 The WHO has also expressed some reservations about the size of China's vaccination plan, noting that "adverse effects that are too rare to show up in a large clinical trial could become apparent when much larger numbers of people receive the vaccine."

Given the speed at which China rushed this vaccine into production and the past record of the country's pharmaceutical industry, I think I would take my chances with the swine flu. 


North Koreans preparing Kim Jong Un personality cult

New documents obtained by Japan's Mainichi Shimbun appear to confirm reports that Kim Jong Il's son Kim Jong-Un is being groomed as his father's successor. These include a textbook for high-ranking military officials :

"Anyone who meets him (Kim Jong Un) is fascinated by him," the text says, as well as praising him as "a military talent who has genius wisdom and policy" and that he "resembles our great general (Kim Jong Il) so much in appearance."

The documents also state that Kim Jong Un commanded the air force as a "vengeful commander" when there were mounting calls in Japan and the United States for intercepting the North Korean missile in April, and that Kim Jong Il once joked that an enemy country would suffer if Kim Jong Un chose to counterattack.

A document apparently compiled by the North's secret police urges a prompt preparation for the succession of the leadership, saying, "It is hoped that our General Kim (Jong Un) is crowned as the successor of our dear leader General (Kim Jong Il) as soon as possible so that the burden of our dear leader is lessened."

Nightwatch's John McCreary comments:

The haste with which his completely fictitious leadership story has been concocted reinforces assessments that Kim Chong-il could die suddenly. Chong-un has lived in Switzerland and, like his father, has never served a day in a military uniform, except for playing dress-up.