NOTE: The following transcript is from an interview with Dr. Patricia Winokur, associate professor of internal medicine in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, conducted March 22, 2006 by Becky Soglin, an editor in the University of Iowa’s Health Science Relations Office.
INTRODUCTION: The University of Iowa has been selected as one of six sites to test a bird flu vaccine. Dr. Patricia Winokur, associate professor of internal medicine, is the principal investigator for the UI site. She's here with us today to talk about the study.
INTERVIEWER: Dr. Winokur, thank you for meeting with us.
WINOKUR: Thank you.
INTERVIEWER: What is the study goal?
WINOKUR: So the goal of this study is to certainly look at an age population that's 65 and older. We've never tested bird flu vaccine in that population. But what we're trying to identify is the best dose for this bird flu vaccine, and also whether the addition of an adjuvant, which is kind of an additive we add to the flu proteins, will improve the immune response to this flu vaccine. The adjuvant that we're using today is aluminum hydroxide, and this is a compound that's been used in a number of commercially approved vaccines like tetanus, hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines, and pertussis vaccine.
INTERVIEWER: How safe is it for people to volunteer to receive this vaccine?
WINOKUR: This vaccine is made up of killed viral particles. There is no live virus at all. So there is no chance that anyone can get bird flu from this vaccine. An adjuvant that we're studying has a very strong safety record and has been used for a number of years in other vaccines. So I think this is going to be a very safe vaccine.
INTERVIEWER: Can you tell us a little bit about what type of protection this vaccine would provide?
WINOKUR: That's actually a harder question to answer. Everybody in the study is going to get some dose of the flu vaccine proteins. There are eight study groups. Some will get higher doses than others, and again some will get the adjuvant, or the aluminum hydroxide, and some won't. What I can't say is who is going to have the best immune protection. I don't think there's going to be a true answer to that until the end of the study.
INTERVIEWER: Anything else you'd like to add about this study?
WINOKUR: I think that the other thing that people should know about this study is certainly that the goal is to identify a vaccine for bird flu, but the information that we're going to learn from this vaccine study is something that will help us with other flu vaccines. The yearly flu vaccines strains that come that don't cause pandemics, we still don't have the best vaccines for those viruses either. So I think we'll learn important information that may help us improve our vaccination for the regular run-of-the-mill flu strains.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you very much for your time.
WINOKUR: Thank you.