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Sunday 23rd October 2016

Concern over fast-track flu jab

27th July 2009

Researchers at two biotechnology companies in Australia have begun human trials of a vaccine against the H1N1 swine flu virus amid concerns that fast-tracked procedures for bringing a vaccine to market may cause a health threat.


The Australian vaccine is being tested by two companies: Vaxine in Adelaide and CSL in Melbourne.

Vaxine has begun injecting 300 volunteers with the trial vaccine, while CSL has begun trials on 240 subjects.

Meanwhile, experts at the World Health Organisation (WHO) have raised raised concerns about the fast-track production of the swine flu vaccine in Europe.

The EU drug regulator has given the go-ahead for treatment to be made available at least two months earlier than in the United States.

Britain has said it will administer the first of the 132 million ordered doses next month.

Other European countries including Greece, France and Sweden plan to start using it as soon as it is cleared by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), with children and pregnant women given priority.

More than 700 people have died globally from the pandemic influenza strain. In Britain, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has sought to calm public fears, saying the government has a strong strategy in place.

At least 31 people have died of the virus in the United Kingdom, which has said it expects to take delivery of the first batches of vaccine by the end of August.

But there is no guarantee either of the Australian vaccines against swine flu will work, according to Vaxine's research director Nikolai Petrovsky.

Swine flu is a peculiar entity, and very different from regular, seasonal influenza viruses, he added. But he said the company was hopeful.

Swine flu is still sensitive to antiviral medications Tamiflu, made by Roche, and Relenza, made by GlaxoSmithKline.

GSK has said it will triple production capacity for Relenza to 190 courses of treatment per year.

Health services around the world have already felt the strain of the pandemic. The UK to launch a National Flu Service, a telephone and internet-based advice service, to meet increasing patient demand .

At least 41 people have died in swine flu-related illness in Australia, which is well into its winter flu season, with more than 14,700 cases of swine flu confirmed already.

The Australian government, which is funding the vaccine, has already ordered 21 million doses of CSL's vaccine, should it prove safe and effective.

Andrew Cuthbertson, CSL's director of research and development, said the trial would determine the dose and schedule of the vaccination.


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