Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The vaccine: A briefing

There are  two pandemic flu vaccines to be given to UK patients. Both  have been approved by the European Medicines Agency and licensed by the European Commission: Pandemrix, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline and approved in September, and Celvapan, manufactured by Baxter and approved last week.

From the www.nhs.uk website:

Is the vaccine safe?

The government will use the vaccines only after they have been licensed by the European authorities. The licence will be issued by the European Commission following advice from the European Medicines Agency. Vaccines would not be licensed if they were considered unsafe.

And more from European Medicines Agency (EMEA):

The EMEA’s decision to approve the two vaccines came after detailed study of the vaccines’ quality and safety, including information on trials in more than 6,000 people. Further trials in adults and children are continuing and more results will become available from October/November 2009. As with all medicines, rare bad reactions may only come to light once the vaccines are used in large numbers of people.

The EMEA has requested that vaccine manufacturers introduce plans to investigate and monitor the safety of vaccines as soon as they are used across the EU, so that action can be taken as early as possible if a safety issue emerges.

Priority for swine flu vaccine

People at the most risk from swine flu will be given priority for the swine flu vaccine. The following groups will be prioritised in this order:

   1. people aged over six months and under 65 years in seasonal flu vaccine at-risk groups
   2. all pregnant women, subject to licensing conditions on trimesters
   3. household contacts of people with reduced immune systems - eg people in regular close contact with patients on treatment for cancer
   4. people aged 65 and over in the seasonal flu vaccine at-risk groups - this does not include otherwise healthy over 65s as they appear to have some natural immunity to the virus

Vaccination of frontline health and social care workers will begin at the same time as the first at-risk group.

The Guardian reoprted this about side effects:

The common side effects were those you'd expect from seasonal flu vaccine: pain where the vaccine was injected (reported by 36 percent of Australian volunteers and 70 percent of UK volunteers) and muscle aches or headaches (reported by 45 percent of Australian volunteers and 42 percent of UK volunteers).

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