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WHO Experts Say H1N1 Pandemic Flu Vaccine Safe


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The World Health Organization says people do not have to worry about the safety of H1N1 Pandemic Flu vaccines. It says a just concluded meeting of worldwide independent experts finds people will suffer very few if any adverse effects from the so-called Swine Flu vaccine.

The Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization or SAGE, advises the WHO on vaccine and immunization policy. The group has been meeting for the past few days and has come up with a number of recommendations on the use of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine.

Director of WHO's Initiative for Vaccine Research, Marie-Paule Kieny, says SAGE based its recommendations on a careful review of clinical trials being conducted on the efficacy and safety of the vaccine and on national regulatory decisions.

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"SAGE has recommended that one dose of vaccine can be used for all populations over six months of age," said Marie-Paule Kieny. "It has also concluded that the pandemic vaccines are safe and can be used in pregnant women and this applies both to inactivated, adjuvanted and non-adjuvanted vaccine, as well as to live attenuated vaccine. And, they have also recommended that seasonal and pandemic vaccine can be administered simultaneously."

The World Health Organization says it has reports of more than 440,000 lab confirmed cases of H1N1 swine flu and over 5,700 deaths. It says globally, teenagers and young adults continue to account for the majority of cases, with rates of hospitalization highest in very young children.

WHO says overall, from seven to 10 percent of all hospitalized patients are pregnant women in their second or third trimester of pregnancy. It says pregnant women are 10 times more likely to need care in an intensive care unit when compared with the general population.

Dr. Kieny says there is a lot of disinformation about the safety of the vaccine-much of it having to do with pregnant women. She says SAGE does not share this view.

"SAGE has considered that in view of the particular importance to vaccinate pregnant women, which are at significant high risk of severe adverse outcome following infection with the pandemic virus, especially in the second and third trimester of their pregnancy, that these women can be vaccinated with any of the currently licensed vaccine, licensed by a functional regulatory authority, unless this national authority has made them a specific contra-indication for use of any specific product," she said.

On a related issue, Dr. Kieny says WHO, so far, has secured 156 million doses of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine and hopes to reach 200 million doses soon. She says 16 developing countries will be the first to receive vaccine donations by the end of November or early December.

She says it is expected that developing countries will use their limited supply of vaccines to immunize health workers first.

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