First Swine Flu Vaccinations Ready by September

07 August 2009

Technicians handle samples to be tested for swine flu at Dr. Carlos Malbran Institute of Biological Research in Buenos Aires, 30 Jul 2009
Technicians handle samples to be tested for swine flu at Dr. Carlos Malbran Institute of Biological Research in Buenos Aires, 30 Jul 2009
The World Health Organization says it expects the first anti-Swine Flu vaccines to be available in September. WHO says clinical trials to test their efficacy and safety are going on in five countries.

The World Health Organizations says vaccine manufacturers are on track to develop a vaccine for the H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu. It says more than 400 shipments of different viruses [vaccine viruses are the starting materials that the manufacturers need to produce vaccines] have been made to all manufacturers and some of the experimental vaccines are now being used in clinical trials.

Director of WHO's Initiative for Vaccine Research, Marie-Paule Kieny, says some of the batches also are likely to be used in future vaccination campaigns. She says clinical trials of vaccine candidates are going on in China, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany and the U.S. And, she expects more clinical trials of other vaccines will begin in other countries in the coming days.

"For the clinical trials who have started in July already, we should have early results during September, during the first half of September," Kieny said. "So, we will know after these clinical trials whether one or two doses will be needed. And, this will also give confirmation that the formulation that the vaccine manufacturers are using are indeed immunogenic and likely to give protection against the pandemic virus."

Dr. Kieny says media rumors that the quick development of vaccines makes them unsafe, in most cases, are unfounded.  She says no vaccine carries zero risks. Some minor side effects are to be expected. She says occasionally someone might have a severe reaction to a vaccine. But, this only occurs in very rare cases.

"So, there is no doubt that if and when there will be very large-scale vaccination campaigns, there will be people who will have adverse events," Kieny said. "But, the large majority of those will not be associated at all with the vaccine, which is given. It will be temporarily associated, which means it is something which would have happened anyway, but, which just by chance happened after the person has had a vaccine. "

Kieny says the vaccine might cause fever, or pain, nausea, diarrhea or fainting in some people.  She says national regulatory authorities will closely monitor all sickness and adverse effects to see whether these side effects are linked to the vaccine or are just coincidental.

If pharmaceutical companies operate at full capacity, she says they could produce 94 million doses of the vaccine a week.