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Do Contagious Vaccines Work Better?
Researchers are working on contagious vaccines that would spread by themselves and thereby grant herd immunity even faster than a disease can ordinarily spread itself.
One vaccine known to be contagious – the oral polio vaccine (OPV) – is one of the rare vaccines known to spread between people. When taken, the weakened virus replicates in the child's intestines, helping their immune system to build up antibodies, before the vaccine is excreted.
"In areas of inadequate sanitation, this excreted vaccine-virus can spread in the immediate community (and this can offer protection to other children through ‘passive’ immunization), before eventually dying out," the World Health Organization.
Researchers captured 147 wild rabbits, before vaccinating about half of them against rabbit hemorrhagic disease and myxomatosis, before releasing all the rabbits – now microchipped – into the wild. Since the virus was similar enough to the original myxoma virus – which causes myxomatosis – the vaccine spread among the rabbits, and by the time they checked 32 days later, 56 percent of the non-vaccinated rabbits had antibodies to both viruses, suggesting some transmission of the vaccine.
This is a fascinating idea, and not entirely without precedent in the science fiction literature. The only real example I can think of occurs in The Puppet Masters, a 1951 novel by Robert Heinlein. In the story, a race of parasites spreads until most human beings have been taken over. Experiments are conducted to determine a contagious illness that will kill the host before killing the human. (Spoiler!) The plan works, with thousands of medics with the injectable cure being airdropped at the end to cure the now parasite-free humans.
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