Tuesday, August 25, 2009

[U.K.] Vaccine caution:

Swine flu vaccine could be a recipe for disaster

From The Times

August 20, 2009

Sir, Dr David Salisbury does NHS nurses an injustice by saying that they have a duty to their patients to be vaccinated against swine flu (report, Aug 18). Their caution is based on the experience in the US where an influenza vaccine was withdrawn during a previous influenza outbreak when the vaccine was found to cause many cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome (an ascending paralysis that may also affect sensory nerves). Adequate safety trials are a prerequisite for any new vaccine and require volunteers who are not morally blackmailed.

The new vaccine for the pandemic strain is being trialled on nursing staff. Completion of adequate safety trials before winter now seem unlikely. The Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, feels that giving the vaccine to pregnant women is essential because high temperature with flu may cause abortion.

These pronouncements seem to be muddled thinking and a recipe for disaster. The same may be said for the widespread distribution of the antivirals Relenza and Tamiflu. Nothing will more rapidly aid a resistant flu strain to be widespread this winter. In most cases so far, this influenza is characterised by its mild nature. Many are infected but remain unaware. At present doing nothing except avoiding crowded places and observing good hand hygiene has much to recommend it.

Colin G. Fink
Micropathology Ltd, University of Warwick

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