Medical journal urges caution over swine flu vaccine


COUNTRIES NEED to assess carefully the risks and benefits of the rapid approval of a human swine flu vaccine to avoid the repeat of past problems with mass-vaccination, medical journal The Lancet has said.

The publication said the fast- tracking of vaccines could lead to a repeat of the problems surrounding a 1976 H1N1 vaccination programme in the United States.

Three elderly people died on the day the vaccine was introduced in October 1976, causing panic and the eventual abandonment of the vaccine programme. The Lancet said the vaccine might be licensed without the usual safety and efficacy data requirements and all monitoring will have to be done after the vaccine has been administered.

It also pointed out that the disease has so far been mild with most patients making a full recovery and therefore there should be strong post-marketing surveillance in place before the rolling out of a vaccine.

The vaccines, which are still being developed, are likely to be available in Ireland by October and everybody will be in a position to get them.

The chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said they would not be recommending the vaccine to any group unless the balance of risk is in favour of them being vaccinated. Six of the seven foreign students staying on the UCD campus who are suspected of having human swine flu have been released from quarantine.

The other student is being assessed by a GP and has been prescribed paracetamol rather than tamiflu which is usually only given to those who have contracted swine flu. Ten students, who are from Italy and Spain, were also monitored by GPs. They have all been cleared while another student who presented yesterday with flu-like symptoms is being assessed. A spokesman for UCD said the university, the biggest in the country, has a comprehensive plan to prepare for the potential threat which will occur when students and staff return to the college in September.