Urgency for vaccine grows as virus ravages China's pigs
But before a vaccine becomes available, it needs to be tested in large numbers of pigs in secure facilities with isolation pens, waste and carcass incinerators and decontamination showers for staff, said Linda Dixon, a biologist at London's Pirbright Institute, which studies viral diseases in livestock. The process takes two to five years, she said.
The extensive testing is necessary to ensure vaccines made by weakened viruses don't have unintended side effects.
In the 1960s, for instance, Spain and Portugal tested such a vaccine after outbreaks of African swine fever. The treated pigs seemed fine at first, but then lesions broke out on their skin, arthritis locked up their joints and the animals failed to fatten up, said Jose Manuel Sanchez-Vizcaino Rodriguez, who leads a lab focused on African swine fever at the University in Madrid.
One of the "...unintended side effects" that warranted extensive testing was that the pigs did not fatten up. Ah ha. Skinny pigs are not profitable. So safety is extra important. What about unintended side effects for vaccines given to humans?