Swine flu shot not causing deaths: WHO

A health worker prepares a swine flu shot at a clinic in Barcelona on November 16, 2009. The World Health Organisation on Thursday ruled out swine flu vaccine as the cause of death in 41 people who had received the flu shot.


AP A health worker prepares a swine flu shot at a clinic in Barcelona on November 16, 2009. The World Health Organisation on Thursday ruled out swine flu vaccine as the cause of death in 41 people who had received the flu shot.
The World Health Organisation on Thursday ruled out swine flu vaccine as the cause of death in 41 people who had received the flu shot.


WHO vaccines chief Marie-Paule Kieny said deaths investigated by health authorities so far weren’t caused by the vaccine. Further deaths were still being investigated, she added.

WHO spokeswoman Nyka Alexander said the 41 deaths examined in connection with the vaccine occurred in six countries. She was unable to say how many deaths were still being examined.

Health experts have been closely monitoring the safety of the new pandemic vaccine that is being given to millions of people worldwide.

Decades of safe influenza inoculations mean specialists aren’t expecting problems with the swine flu shot, because it’s made the same way as the regular winter flu vaccine.

In some European countries, including Germany and Switzerland, there has been public concern whether the use of adjuvants in vaccines is safe. These additives are intended to boost the body’s immune response and stretch the vaccine’s active ingredient so more doses can be made.

No flu vaccines with adjuvants are licensed so far in the United States, though they are commonly used in Europe.

“The pandemic flu vaccine is as safe as seasonal flu vaccines,” said Ms. Kieny, adding that vaccines against the pandemic flu strain, known as H1N1, have no more side effects than previous flu vaccines.

Out of every 10,000 doses of vaccines administered only one person develops reaction to the vaccine. Five out of 100 reactions are serious, she said.

H1N1 injection (and spray) rejection

H1N1 injection (and spray) rejection

The biggest frustration facing many doctors is the dearth of swine flu vaccine for their patients. But not Paula Soghomonian’s pediatrician at Pediatric Village in the District. She is not recommending the shots — or the nasal spray.

“The senior doctor there doesn’t believe in it and doesn’t want it for her patients,” Soghomonian said. “I think the feeling was it’s just too new.”

Soghomonian’s doctor is one of a small cadre of outliers who remain skeptical about the government’s unprecedented immunization campaign, citing doubts about the risks presented by the H1N1 virus or the safety of the vaccine, despite the fact that no worrisome reactions have been reported.

“My feeling is that this is all being over-hyped,” said Laurence J. Murphy, a pediatrician in Burke who also will not inoculate his patients. “Most people who get this virus do beautifully. I believe the vaccine hasn’t been tested enough. I just think the benefit of it at this point is not outweighed by the possible risk.”

Such contrarian voices, through the megaphone of cable news or in the quiet of exam rooms, have forced federal health officials to play defense as well as offense in their campaign to encourageimmunization.

Public health leaders are at a loss to explain the skeptical minority, except to say that it mirrors the chronically low percentage of health-care workers who get the seasonal fluvaccine every year. Officials worry that these doubters could have a disproportionate influence in an already frustrating and confusing situation, and stress that the studies conducted so far and the intensive monitoring underway indicate that thevaccine is as safe as any flu vaccine.

“I am very disappointed, deeply puzzled and very disturbed by this,” said William Schaffner, president-elect of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. “The people for whom these doctors are not recommending this vaccine are clearly high-priority patients who could have very adverse outcomes if they get infected with the virus.”

‘Not enough data’

Although no one has surveyed doctors’ views on the vaccine, polls show that people look to their physicians when deciding whether to get the shots or nasal spray. A nationally representative survey of 1,042 adults in September found that 68 percent said they trusted the advice of their doctor or their child’s pediatrician on this issue, far more than those who said they trusted top federal health officials and medical groups.

“People rely very heavily on their physician’s judgments about whether or not they should take a vaccine,” said Robert J. Blendon, a professor of health policy at the Harvard School of Public Health who conducted the survey. “They are at the top of the charts.”

As a result, the naysayers have left patients torn between a doctor’s long-respected advice, their own judgment and official recommendations.

“It’s like total confusion for me to try to figure out what to do,” Soghomonian said as she lined up with her 3-year-old daughter, Ally, on a recent morning at a District flu clinic.

“It’s really been very frustrating and very scary,” said Soghomonian, who eventually left after deciding to give her daughter only the seasonal fluvaccine. “I just want someone to tell me what to do, you know?”

Cheryl F. Edmonds, founder of the practice where Soghomonian takes her children, declined to be interviewed. But a member of her staff, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, characterized her concerns this way: “Her thing is there’s just not enough data.”

Murphy, the Burke pediatrician, said he has no reason to think the vaccine is unsafe — he, like many of the skeptics, said he generally supports vaccinations. But he wonders whether it was tested enough.

“They just didn’t have the time to do that properly. They mean well and they are not doing anything to mislead people in any direct way. The reality is no one knows. I’m not pretending to know. I don’t think they should pretend to know,” he said.

‘Jumping on the bandwagon’

Murphy is not alone. A smattering of obstetricians, family practice doctors, internists and other physicians nationwide who harbor doubts about safety of the vaccine or the danger the flu poses raise questions on blogs and during interviews, and counsel their patients not to get the immunization.

“What bothers me is pretty much every doctor in the country is jumping on the bandwagon and saying, ‘This vaccine is completely safe’ — even for the pregnant woman and the unborn baby,” said Bob Sears, of Orange County, Calif. “But they can’t give you a single study that backs up that statement.”

Officials repeatedly have stressed that while no vaccine is completely safe, there is no reason to believe the swine flu immunization would pose any unusual risks, and so far no problems have emerged.

“I can understand the hesitancy and reluctance to take a vaccine that appears to be new and different. All we can do is provide the facts,” said Thomas R. Frieden, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The facts are that this is the same manufacturing process, the same manufacturers, the same factories, the same safeguards as the seasonal fluvaccine that has been used for more than 100 million doses each year for many years and which has an excellent safety record.”

But Meryl Nass, an internist in Bar Harbor, Maine, still has doubts, especially given that most people who become infected get only mildly ill.

“In this situation, when there’s very little data, I don’t think people — and children in particular — should be asked to bear the burden of being experimental subjects,” said Nass, who has been blogging about her doubts. Nass also questions the assertion that thevaccine is safe for women in all stages of pregnancy.

“The CDC is telling women in all trimesters to go out and get vaccine. To my mind, this is reckless,” said Nass, who is advising her patients to consider receiving the vaccine only in their second or third trimesters.

‘Behind the curve’

Some doctors hear echoes of politics in the reactions to their concerns.

“You come out and offer some caution about the safety of the vaccine, and it becomes very political: Are you with us or are you against us?” said Kent Holtorf, whose Southern California practice specializes in treating chronic conditions. “It’s almost like Republicans and Democrats, and no one wants to toe the middle ground, because it could help the other side.”

Giuseppe Lancellotti, a pediatrician from Ephrata, Pa., argues that the vaccine has arrived too late to make a difference anyway.

“We’re just way behind the curve,” he said.

Government officials counter that it remains far from clear whether the second wave of infections currently sweeping the country has peaked. Even if it has, people will continue to become infected for months and another wave could hit later.

“The risk of not getting the vaccine is much greater than the risk from getting it,” said Anthony S. Fauci, who is leading the government’s ongoing testing of the vaccine at the National Institutes of Health.

Soghomonian was finally forced to make a snap decision when her husband took her 5-year-old son to get a seasonal flu shot and discovered the swine fluvaccine was available, too.

“I called him and said, ‘Just do both,’ ” she said. He did, but Soghomonian was still uneasy. “There was a moment of panic, like: What did I do?”

Nevertheless, Soghomonian was among the first few dozen people to line up last week at Wilson High School in the District to finally get her daughter vaccinated.

“It’s your pediatrician. Your children have been there since Day One. You feel like they know and you should listen to their advice. And here I’m going against it,” she said.

“Ultimately, you have to make your own decision.”

{Source: Washington Post}

Cipla launches drug to treat H1N1 virus

  MUMBAI (Reuters) – Drug maker Cipla Ltd on Wednesday launched its generic version of Roche’s Tamiflu, used in the treatment of the H1N1 swine flu virus, the firm said in a statement.

 Cipla’s Oseltamivir brand, called Antiflu, will cost 475 rupees for 10 capsules, with 75 ml syrup will be similarly priced.

 Cipla’s drug is also pre-qualified by the World Health Organisation.

  (For more news on Reuters Money visit www.reutersmoney.in )







Global swine flu toll rises to over 5,700: WHO


Thousands of people line up to get the H1N1 vaccine at Metro Hall in Toronto on Friday Oct. 30, 2009.

Canada has 50 million doses of the vaccine ordered for the population of 33 million More than 700 people have died of swine flu this week, raising the number of fatalities from the viral disease to 5,712 worldwide, Xinhua reported citing the UN health agency on Friday. Of all the deaths, 4,175 occurred in the Americas, 605 occurred in South-East Asia and 465 occurred in the West Pacific.

 Europe, East Mediterranean and Africa reported 281, 111 and 75 deaths respectively, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a latest update on Friday.

The WHO, which declared the swine flu as a pandemic in June, said the total number of lab confirmed cases worldwide is now over 441,661, but this case count is significantly lower than the actual number of cases that have occurred, because many countries have stopped testing and reporting individual cases. In the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere, influenza transmission continues to intensify marking an unusually early start to winter influenza season in some countries, the UN agency said.

Narendra Modi tests positive for swine flu


Modi, who had showed symptoms of cough, cold and fever, had insisted on the H1N1 test.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who returned from abroad two days back, tested positive for swine flu on Friday, a doctor attending on him said. Samples of Mr. Modi were taken for test on Thursday after he showed symptoms of cough, cold and fever, Atul Patel, one of the four doctors in the team looking after the Chief Minister, said. The results came this morning, the doctor said, adding Mr. Modi had insisted on the H1N1 test. Mr. Modi, who returned from Russia on Wednesday, will be kept in isolation for seven days at his residence, where a team of doctors are attending on him. “No cause for worry” “There is no cause for any concern regarding the health of the Chief minister and he is responding to treatment,” Mr. Modi’s doctor said. The Chief Minister had on Thursday attended office at the State Secretariat, chaired a cabinet meeting and met officers and received visitors till late in the evening. Later, his fever increased and he decided to cancel all official programmes and take the swine flu test.

CT scans better than X-rays for in H1N1 patients

Washington: A new study has found that computed tomography (CT) scans can be more useful than standard radiography (X-rays) in detecting the severity of disease in patients with the H1N1 virus.
Reports of seven patients with the H1N1 virus who underwent both tests were assessed to reach the conclusion that CT scans were more effective. Amr M. Ajlan, M.D., lead author of the study, said: “All patients with CT abnormalities showed abnormal findings on the corresponding chest X-rays.
“However, the extent of involvement was more diffuse and the distribution of disease was better characterized on CT.” He added: “The strength of our study is that all CT scans performed showed a similar distribution of abnormalities, which might help physicians prospectively diagnose H1N1 using medical imaging.
“Most cases of H1N1 are mild and self-limited; however, high-risk patients are more likely to have severe complications. Our study suggests that CT is superior to standard chest X-rays and should be the imaging modality of choice in high-risk patients.”
The study will be published in the December issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology but has already been published online.

H1N1 vaccine still far away

HYDERABAD: There is little chance of the H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine becoming available in the State anytime soon.

Though it was being administered to vulnerable sections in USA and other places, the vaccine was still far away as human trials were yet to begin here, said Principal Secretary (Health) L.V. Subrahmanyam on Wednesday.

Addressing a press conference here, Mr. Subrahmanyam pointed out that the vaccine being administered abroad was a long term one but had to be administered annually.

The cost of each vaccine vial was said to be hovering between Rs. 300-500.

“The Centre has advised all States to keep the cold chain ready. We have it as part of the pulse polio immunisation programme. The first priority for administering the vaccine is for health providers but it is difficult to guess about when it could be available,” he said.

‘Second wave’

But, at the same time he claimed that the government was better equipped to tackle any fresh onslaught of the flu since the ‘second wave’ of H1N1 flu had hit Mexico and other nations.

“We are maintaining surveillance and screening at the airports are continuing. The virus is already here and no imports are needed,” he said.

Better equipped

Mr. Subrahmanyam said the government was now better equipped with more laboratories, more beds, adequate medicines and training given to health personnel to tackle the flu.