Two-thirds of vaccines go unused


ALMOST TWO-thirds of the €12.8 million worth of swine flu vaccines ordered by the State remain unused as the national pandemic flu vaccination campaign comes to an end this week.

The Health Service Executive said yesterday discussions were ongoing with the GlaxoSmithKline pharmaceutical company “as to how to manage the surplus vaccine”. Some stocks will also be maintained in the country for use should we experience any subsequent waves of the pandemic.

A number of countries have been donating surplus stocks to developing countries. In the North it was announced last week that about £550,000 worth of swine flu vaccines that were not used are to be donated to third world countries.

More than seven million doses of swine flu vaccine were initially said to have been ordered for Irish people but when it emerged that individuals would need just one and not two doses of the vaccine an order for some 3.7 million doses from the Baxter pharmaceutical company was cancelled.

The HSE, in a statement yesterday, said that in the end some three million doses of vaccine had arrived in the State at a cost of about €12.8 million.

It confirmed 1.1 million people – or about 25 per cent of the population – had availed of the vaccine to date, leaving close to two million doses unused.

The national swine flu vaccination campaign, which began last November, concludes tomorrow March 31st as the numbers of cases of swine flu have decreased significantly.

“The only group who will still be offered vaccine after this date are pregnant women. This is due to their risk of serious complications from pandemic flu. Pandemic vaccine will be available free of charge for this group from their GP or maternity hospital,” the HSE said.

“Up to 25 per cent of the total population have now received pandemic vaccine – this figure is much higher than has been achieved in other countries and we hope this level of protection will help in mitigating the effects of any possible second wave of infection.”

Apart from the cost of buying the vaccine the HSE said some €13.84 million had been spent on administering the vaccine at mass vaccination clinics and GP surgeries, as well as on communications around the vaccination campaign. About €2.2 million went to GPs for giving the vaccine to at risk groups. Some 24 people died from swine flu in the Republic. Another 18 died in the North.