Most single strain flu vaccine not needed

A high proportion of single strain swine flu vaccines targeted at high-risk groups in Otago and Southland will most likely not be needed, Public Health South medical officer of health Dr Marion Poore says.

Dr Poore said she would not be able to give figures about how many took up the swine flu vaccine until the programme finished later this month.

A single strain swine flu vaccine has been available since early February to those considered high risk, such as frontline health staff, and those with underlying medical conditions.

However, it has been superseded by a multistrain single shot vaccine which is to be available later this month.

Dr Poore said she was not disappointed that a high proportion of the single strain vaccines would not be needed, as the main focus was always on the multistrain jab. It protected against other flu strains, and required only one injection, rather than the two required for the single strain.

However, the swine flu shot had good uptake from frontline health staff, she said.

Only 60,000 doses of the 300,000 doses of the two-dose monovalent vaccine have been ordered around the country, the Ministry of Health advised this week. It would take a month to confirm the actual take-up rate.

Now the multistrain vaccine is soon to be available, it seems unlikely that the bulk of the monovalent vaccine will be used.

Some of the vaccine will expire in June, the remaining 252,000 doses in September.

Asked if the monovalent vaccine order should have been cancelled given the early availability of the multistrain vaccine, the ministry in an email said supplies of the seasonal flu vaccine had been very unpredictable.

The ministry negotiated for some of the seasonal vaccine to arrive early, but the main supply would not be available until the end of this month.

International demand for this vaccine was strong and all manufacturers had reported it was difficult to grow, so right up to the middle of February there was uncertainty about whether enough vaccine would be available, the ministry stated.

These uncertainties and the likelihood the second pandemic wave might arrive early meant the ministry decided to make the monovalent vaccine available to those most at risk of developing severe complications from swine flu, and to frontline health care workers.

The ministry repeated its earlier refusal to give the cost of the monovalent vaccine.

The final costs of vaccines remained commercially sensitive even after contracts had been signed and it was not ministry practice to disclose their cost, the statement said.

Dr Poore said it was particularly important those with underlying health conditions, or other at-risk groups, got the vaccine. Also, healthy people could benefit from a shot.

Swine flu, while relatively mild, affected younger people more than other flus.

Seasonal flu vaccinations are free for those over 65, the morbidly obese, pregnant women, cancer patients and those with a variety of other conditions including heart disease, diabetes and HIV.


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