“Shipments of H1N1 flu vaccine leave factories” (CNN)

“State and health plans reach agreement on H1N1 vaccine coverage” (Boston Globe)

“Vaccine makers try to speed output” ” (Wall Street Journal)

“France takes a new shot at H1N1” (Wall Street Journal)

These are just some of the myriad headlines on the H1N1 flu pandemic and vaccine situation. With months of warning, many are left scratching their heads, asking why weren’t we more prepared? In today’s world of hotel-room crystal meth labs and designer drugs from ‘head shops’, why can’t our best and brightest scientific minds create a life-saving vaccine on target and on time?

Dennis M. Gross, MS, PhD, an associate dean at Thomas Jefferson University (Philadelphia, PA, USA), where he also teaches courses in pharmacology and toxicology, explains why vaccines are far more complicated than your average drug (legal or otherwise). The differences between vaccines and drugs are fundamental, and the effects are far-reaching, helping to explain why we are seeing today’s headlines.