Wellington – New Zealand has ordered a stock of untested and unapproved swine flu vaccine for health workers, police and other emergency staff but it is not likely to be used until December at the earliest, Prime Minister John Key announced on Monday.
An initial supply of 300,000 doses had been ordered from the international company Baxter Healthcare Limited for delivery within the month, he told a news conference after New Zealand’s first three deaths from the disease were revealed at the weekend.
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The company that released contaminated flu virus material from a plant in Austria confirmed Friday that the experimental product contained live H5N1 avian flu viruses.
The contamination incident, which is being investigated by the four European countries, came to light when the subcontractor in the Czech Republic inoculated ferrets with the product and they died. Ferrets shouldn’t die from exposure to human H3N2 flu viruses.
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Key said the vaccine would have to be licensed by the government’s Medsafe agency which assesses the safety and efficacy of all medicines.
Health Minister Tony Ryall said clinical trials of the vaccine would be held in Europe and the purchase was strategic given that the H1N1 influenza virus pandemic could last up to two years.
‘We want to be in the position of having the vaccine and not needing it, rather than the other way around,’ he said.
He said that when approved two doses of the vaccine would be offered to 150,000 doctors, nurses, police, firefighters and other frontline health and emergency workers.
Ryall said that New Zealand had 1,059 confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza, also known as swine flu, but there had been many more because testing was limited. Most people suffered only a mild illness which could easily be treated at home, but it was very contagious.
The Medsafe assessment and vaccination programme could be accelerated if the situation worsened, he said.
About 435 people die from influenza in New Zealand, which is now in winter, every year and Ryall said more deaths were expected because of the H1N1 pandemic.
July 06, 2009
Source: Monsters and Critics