Archive for Swine Flu

2009 UK Report: Swine flu jab link to killer nerve disease: Leaked letter reveals concern of neurologists over 25 deaths in America

Posted in Flu Shot, GUILLAIN-BARRE syndrome, Swine Flu, Vaccinations with tags , , , , , , on November 5, 2010 by saynsumthn

Swine flu jab link to killer nerve disease: Leaked letter reveals concern of neurologists over 25 deaths in America

By Jo Macfarlane/ UK Daily Mail
Created 9:29 PM on 15th August 2009

A warning that the new swine flu jab is linked to a deadly nerve disease has been sent by the Government to senior neurologists in a confidential letter.

The letter from the Health Protection Agency, the official body that oversees public health, has been leaked to The Mail on Sunday, leading to demands to know why the information has not been given to the public before the vaccination of millions of people, including children, begins.

It tells the neurologists that they must be alert for an increase in a brain disorder called Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), which could be triggered by the vaccine.
GBS attacks the lining of the nerves, causing paralysis and inability to breathe, and can be fatal.

The letter, sent to about 600 neurologists on July 29, is the first sign that there is concern at the highest levels that the vaccine itself could cause serious complications.
It refers to the use of a similar swine flu vaccine in the United States in 1976 when:

• More people died from the vaccination than from swine flu.
• 500 cases of GBS were detected.
• The vaccine may have increased the risk of contracting GBS by eight times.
• The vaccine was withdrawn after just ten weeks when the link with GBS became clear.
• The US Government was forced to pay out millions of dollars to those affected.

Concerns have already been raised that the new vaccine has not been sufficiently tested and that the effects, especially on children, are unknown.

It is being developed by pharmaceutical companies and will be given to about 13million people during the first wave of immunization, expected to start in October.

Top priority will be given to everyone aged six months to 65 with an underlying health problem, pregnant women and health professionals.

The British Neurological Surveillance Unit (BNSU), part of the British Association of Neurologists, has been asked to monitor closely any cases of GBS as the vaccine is rolled out.
One senior neurologist said last night: ‘I would not have the swine flu jab because of the GBS risk.’

There are concerns that there could be a repeat of what became known as the ‘1976 debacle’ in the US, where a swine flu vaccine killed 25 people – more than the virus itself.

A mass vaccination was given the go-ahead by President Gerald Ford because scientists believed that the swine flu strain was similar to the one responsible for the 1918-19 pandemic, which killed half a million Americans and 20million people worldwide.

The swine flu vaccine being offered to children has not been tested on infants.

Within days, symptoms of GBS were reported among those who had been immunised and 25 people died from respiratory failure after severe paralysis. One in 80,000 people came down with the condition. In contrast, just one person died of swine flu.

More than 40million Americans had received the vaccine by the time the programme was stopped after ten weeks. The US Government paid out millions of dollars in compensation to those affected.

The swine flu virus in the new vaccine is a slightly different strain from the 1976 virus, but the possibility of an increased incidence of GBS remains a concern.

Shadow health spokesman Mike Penning said last night: ‘The last thing we want is secret letters handed around experts within the NHS. We need a vaccine but we also need to know about potential risks.

‘Our job is to make sure that the public knows what’s going on. Why is the Government not being open about this? It’s also very worrying if GPs, who will be administering the vaccine, aren’t being warned.’

Two letters were posted together to neurologists advising them of the concerns. The first, dated July 29, was written by Professor Elizabeth Miller, head of the HPA’s Immunisation Department.

It says: ‘The vaccines used to combat an expected swine influenza pandemic in 1976 were shown to be associated with GBS and were withdrawn from use.

‘GBS has been identified as a condition needing enhanced surveillance when the swine flu vaccines are rolled out.

‘Reporting every case of GBS irrespective of vaccination or disease history is essential for conducting robust epidemiological analyses capable of identifying whether there is an increased risk of GBS in defined time periods after vaccination, or after influenza itself, compared with the background risk.’

The second letter, dated July 27, is from the Association of British Neurologists and is written by Dr Rustam Al-Shahi Salman, chair of its surveillance unit, and Professor Patrick Chinnery, chair of its clinical research committee.

It says: ‘Traditionally, the BNSU has monitored rare diseases for long periods of time. However, the swine influenza (H1N1) pandemic has overtaken us and we need every member’s involvement with a new BNSU survey of Guillain-Barre Syndrome that will start on August 1 and run for approximately nine months.

‘Following the 1976 programme of vaccination against swine influenza in the US, a retrospective study found a possible eight-fold increase in the incidence of GBS.

‘Active prospective ascertainment of every case of GBS in the UK is required. Please tell BNSU about every case.

‘You will have seen Press coverage describing the Government’s concern about releasing a vaccine of unknown safety.’

If there are signs of a rise in GBS after the vaccination programme begins, the Government could decide to halt it.

GBS attacks the lining of the nerves, leaving them unable to transmit signals to muscles effectively.

It can cause partial paralysis and mostly affects the hands and feet. In serious cases, patients need to be kept on a ventilator, but it can be fatal.

Death is caused by paralysis of the respiratory system, causing the victim to suffocate.

It is not known exactly what causes GBS and research on the subject has been inconclusive.

However, it is thought that one in a million people who have a seasonal flu vaccination could be at risk and it has also been linked to people recovering from a bout of flu of any sort.

The HPA said it was part of the Government’s pandemic plan to monitor GBS cases in the event of a mass vaccination campaign, regardless of the strain of flu involved.
But vaccine experts warned that the letters proved the programme was a ‘guinea-pig trial’.

Dr Tom Jefferson, co-ordinator of the vaccines section of the influential Cochrane Collaboration, an independent group that reviews research, said: ‘New vaccines never behave in the way you expect them to. It may be that there is a link to GBS, which is certainly not something I would wish on anybody.

‘But it could end up being anything because one of the additives in one of the vaccines is a substance called squalene, and none of the studies we’ve extracted have any research on it at all.’

He said squalene, a naturally occurring enzyme, could potentially cause so-far-undiscovered side effects.

Jackie Fletcher, founder of vaccine support group Jabs, said: ‘The Government would not be anticipating this if they didn’t think there was a connection. What we’ve got is a massive guinea-pig trial.’

Professor Chinnery said: ‘During the last swine flu pandemic, it was observed that there was an increased frequency of cases of GBS. No one knows whether it was the virus or the vaccine that caused this.

‘The purpose of the survey is for us to assess rapidly whether there is an increase in the frequency of GBS when the vaccine is released in the UK. It also increases consultants’ awareness of the condition.

Panic over? The number of swine flu cases has fallen sharply in the past few weeks

‘This is a belt-and-braces approach to safety and is not something people should be substantially worried about as it’s a rare condition.’

If neurologists do identify a case of GBS, it will be logged on a central database.

Details about patients, including blood samples, will be collected and monitored by the HPA.

It is hoped this will help scientists establish why some people develop the condition and whether it is directly related to the vaccine.

But some question why there needs to be a vaccine, given the risks. Dr Richard Halvorsen, author of The Truth About Vaccines, said: ‘For people with serious underlying health problems, the risk of dying from swine flu is probably greater than the risk of side effects from the vaccine.

‘But it would be tragic if we repeated the US example and ended up with more casualties from the jabs.

‘I applaud the Government for recognising the risk but in most cases this is a mild virus which needs a few days in bed. I’d question why we need a vaccine at all.’

Professor Miller at the HPA said: ‘This monitoring system activates pandemic plans that have been in place for a number of years. We’ll be able to get information on whether a patient has had a prior influenza illness and will look at whether influenza itself is linked to GBS.

‘We are not expecting a link to the vaccine but a link to disease, which would make having the vaccine even more important.’

The UK’s medicines watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, is already monitoring reported side effects from Tamiflu and Relenza and it is set to extend that surveillance to the vaccine.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘The European Medicines Agency has strict processes in place for licensing pandemic vaccines.

‘In preparing for a pandemic, appropriate trials to assess safety and the immune responses have been carried out on vaccines very similar to the swine flu vaccine. The vaccines have been shown to have a good safety profile.

‘It is extremely irresponsible to suggest that the UK would use a vaccine without careful consideration of safety issues. The UK has one of the most successful immunisation programmes in the world.’

I COULDN”T EAT OR SPEAK… IT WAS HORRENDOUS

When Hilary Wilkinson woke up with muscle weakness in her left arm and difficulty breathing, doctors initially put it down to a stroke.

But within hours, she was on a ventilator in intensive care after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

She spent three months in hospital and had to learn how to talk and walk again. But at times, when she was being fed through a drip and needed a tracheotomy just to breathe, she doubted whether she would survive.

The mother of two, 57, from Maryport, Cumbria, had been in good health until she developed a chest infection in March 2006. She gradually became so weak she could not walk downstairs.

Doctors did not diagnose Guillain-Barre until her condition worsened in hospital and tests showed her reflexes slowing down. It is impossible for doctors to know how she contracted the disorder, although it is thought to be linked to some infections.

Mrs Wilkinson said: ‘It was very scary. I couldn’t eat and I couldn’t speak. My arms and feet had no strength and breathing was hard.

I was treated with immunoglobulin, which are proteins found in blood, to stop damage to my nerves. After ten days, I still couldn’t speak and had to mime to nurses or my family.
‘It was absolutely horrendous and I had no idea whether I would get through it. You reach very dark moments at such times and wonder how long it can last.

But I’m a very determined person and I had lots of support.’

After three weeks, she was transferred to a neurological ward, where she had an MRI scan and nerve tests to assess the extent of the damage.

Still unable to speak and in a wheelchair, Mrs Wilkinson eventually began gruelling physiotherapy to improve her muscle strength and movement but it was exhausting and painful.

Three years later, she is almost fully recovered. She can now walk for several miles at a time, has been abroad and carries out voluntary work for a GBS Support Group helpline.

She said: ‘It makes me feel wary that the Government is rolling out this vaccine without any clear idea of the GBS risk, if any. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone and it certainly changed my life.
‘I’m frightened to have the swine flu vaccine if this might happen again – it’s a frightening illness and I think more research needs to be done on the effect of the vaccine.’

Hotline staff given access to confidential records

Confidential NHS staff records and disciplinary complaints could be accessed by hundreds of workers manning the Government’s special swine flu hotline.
They were able to browse through a database of emails containing doctors’ and nurses’ National Insurance numbers, home addresses, dates of birth, mobile phone numbers and scanned passport pages – all details that could be used fraudulently.
And private and confidential complaints sent by hospitals about temporary medical staff – some of whom were named – were also made available to the call-centre workers, who were given a special password to log in to an internal NHS website.
It could be a breach of the Data Protection Act.
The hotline staff work for NHS Professionals, which was set up using taxpayers’ money to employ temporary medical and administrative staff for the health service.
The not-for-profit company runs two of the Government’s swine flu call centres – with 300 staff in Farnborough, Hampshire, and 900 in Watford, Hertfordshire.

Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley described the revelations as ‘disturbing’.

Anne Mitchell, a spokeswoman for Unison, said: ‘There’s no excuse for such a fundamental breach of personal security. Action needs to be taken as soon as possible to make sure this does not happen again.’

A spokeswoman for NHS Professionals would not confirm whether access to the confidential files had been granted.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1206807/Swine-flu-jab-link-killer-nerve-disease-Leaked-letter-reveals-concern-neurologists-25-deaths-America.html#ixzz14Phmdqwb

12,000 USA KIDS TO BE USED AS GUINEA PIGS – EUGENICS PROGRAM

Posted in Children, H1N1, Swine Flu, Vaccinations with tags , , , , , , , on April 12, 2010 by saynsumthn

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more about "12,000 USA KIDS TO BE USED AS GUINEA …", posted with vodpod

Flu shot for all Americans recommended by Government Panel

Posted in Flu Shot, Forced Sterilization, H1N1, Swine Flu, Vaccinations with tags , , , , , on March 1, 2010 by saynsumthn

Panel recommends annual flu vaccinations for all

By MIKE STOBBE
The Associated Press
Wednesday, February 24, 2010; 8:52 PM

ATLANTA — A government panel is now recommending that virtually all Americans get a flu shot each year, starting this fall.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices had gradually been expanding its recommendation for flu shots – 85 percent of Americans were already included.

On Wednesday, the panel voted to recommend a seasonal flu vaccination for everyone except babies younger than 6 months and those with egg allergies or other unusual conditions.

The panel’s recommendation now goes to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC usually follows the panel’s advice and spreads the message to doctors and hospitals across the country.

“Now no one should say ‘Should I or shouldn’t I?'” said Dr. Anthony Fiore, a CDC flu specialist.

CDC vaccination recommendations tend to be influential with the doctors who give the shots and the health insurers who pay for them.

Flu shots are already recommended for 85 percent of the U.S. public, including pregnant women, children older than 6 months, adults 50 and older, people with certain chronic health conditions, health care workers and those who take care of people in a recommended group. The only people who weren’t specifically included were healthy people ages 19 to 49 who don’t have close contact with anyone at risk of flu and its complications.

But only about 33 percent of Americans actually get a flu shot, and unusually millions and millions of doses get thrown away annually.

The swine flu pandemic that hit last year caused a new momentum for flu vaccinations. Virtually all the 114 million doses of seasonal flu vaccine doses made were distributed, and more young adults and children got the swine flu vaccine than usually come out for seasonal flu.

The panel voted 11 to 0 – with one abstention – for the recommendation, prompting a short round of applause in the CDC auditorium where the meeting was held. Some public health experts and physicians had been pushing for a universal flu vaccination recommendation for more than 10 years.

Also on Wednesday, the panel gave its nod to a proposed formulation of next year’s seasonal flu vaccine. The vaccine will be built to protect against three strains of flu scientists think will be circulating next fall and winter. Swine flu is to be one of the strains incorporated into the vaccine.

At past meetings, the panel stopped short of recommending flu shots for everyone. Panel members were mindful of a history of temporary flu vaccine shortages in the United States. They worried a universal recommendation might cause demand to far surpass supply and endanger those at the highest risk of life-threatening flu complications.

“Yet every year we wasted millions and millions of doses,” said Dr. Gregory Poland, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases expert who for years has passionately pushed the panel to recommend flu shots for all.

The swine flu vaccine campaign appears to be ending the same way. Doses were scarce when the swine flu vaccine first became available in early October, but now roughly 90 million people have been vaccinated, demand is dying and millions of doses are unused.

Swine flu provided another argument for universal vaccination. The new virus proved to be unusually dangerous to young adults, and also took a surprising toll on Native Americans and obese people. Many of those hospitalized and killed by swine flu were not in groups previously recommended for annual flu shots, and that fact was another reason to expand the vaccination recommendation, experts said.

There are a few exceptions to the universal recommendation. Children under 6 months of age, who have undeveloped immune systems, will continue to be exempt. So too will people who have egg allergies (the vaccine is made using eggs) and those who have had certain severe reactions to flu shots in the past.

The panel also decided that elderly people can consider a new, revved-up version of the seasonal flu shot. It’s a Sanofi Pasteur vaccine for adults 65 and older.

In years when the flu shot is well matched to circulating flu viruses, vaccine is 70 to 90 percent effective in people younger than 65, the CDC estimates. But it tends to be only 30 to 70 percent effective in those who are older because they generally have weakened immune systems.

The Sanofi vaccine – called Fluzone High-Dose – has four times as much immunity-building antibodies as a standard dose. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine in December, and it should be available for the 2010-2011 flu season. It would cost about $25 a shot, or about twice the standard version.

The panel did not state a preference for the vaccine, however. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine through an accelerated process, and Sanofi is to do further studies to show the shot reduces flu illnesses.

On the Net:

ACIP:http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/acip/default.htm

New York’s Bill S4779B allows for vaccinations to minors without parental consent

Posted in Civil Rights, Flu Shot, Forced Sterilization, H1N1, HPV, Parental Rights, Swine Flu, Vaccinations with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2010 by saynsumthn

READ HERE : http://open.nysenate.gov/openleg/bill/S4779B
BILL NUMBER: S4779B
TITLE OF BILL :

An act to amend the public health law, in relation to providing
medical care to minors for sexually transmitted diseases without a
parent’s or guardian’s consent

PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL :

To ensure that the immunization against HPV is administered to people
at a time when it is most effective.

SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS :

Section one amends section 2305 of the public health law to provide
that no person other than a health care practitioner shall diagnose,
treat or prescribe for a person who is infected with a sexually
transmissible disease, or who has been exposed to infection with a
sexually transmissible disease, or dispense or sell a drug, medicine
or remedy for the treatment of such person except on prescription of a
health care practitioner.

Section two amends subdivision 2 of section 2305 of the public health
law to provide that a health care practitioner may diagnose, treat or
prescribe treatment for a sexually transmissible disease for a person
under age eighteen without the consent or knowledge of his or her
parents or guardians where such person is infected with a sexually
transmissible disease or has been exposed to infection with a sexually
transmissible disease.

This section also provides that a health care practitioner may provide
health care related to the prevention of a sexually transmissible
disease, including administering vaccines, to a person under age
eighteen without the consent or knowledge of his or her parents or
guardians, provided such person has capacity to, consent to the care,
without regard to the person’s age, and the-person consents. The
section provides further that any release of patient information
regarding vaccines provided under this section shall be consistent
with sections 17 and 18 of the public health law and other applicable
laws and regulations.

In addition, this section defines “health care practitioner.”
Section three provides the effective date.

READ HERE : http://open.nysenate.gov/openleg/bill/S4779B

HHS urges continued H1N1 vaccination of health workers, everyone

Posted in Flu Shot, H1N1, Swine Flu, Vaccinations with tags , , , , , , , on December 17, 2009 by saynsumthn

From the: Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy
Dec 16, 2009 (CIDRAP News) – Despite a dip in cases, H1N1 influenza has not gone away and could resurge, making continued vaccination critical, government and private health officials said today.

Speaking on a webcast for health care providers conducted by the Department of Heath and Human Services (HHS), the experts urged healthcare workers to take the vaccine themselves and to continue to push it out to patients.

“We know from the past there could be increases after the holidays,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Continuing to vaccinate will reduce the chances that H1N1 can return in a destructive third wave, agreed Dr. Nicole Lurie, HHS’s assistant secretary for preparedness and response. “We don’t know what is going to happen,” she said. “Although the virus is on the downswing now, I don’t think any of us right now think it is going to go away.”

Health officials are concerned that healthcare workers continue to be vaccinated, especially now that rules for who may receive the vaccine have loosened in what Schuchat said are roughly half the states. Health workers’ example exerts an important influence, said Dr. Nancy Nielsen, immediate past president of the American Medical Association: “We have a responsibility not only to take care of ourselves, but to be role models for those we take care of.”

Federal officials remain concerned that some high-risk populations have not been vaccinated at high-enough rates, including racial and ethnic minorities, pregnant women and young children.

“We have seen almost 10,000 deaths from the flu, and many of those were children,” said newly sworn-in US Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin. “As a parent, you wouldn’t want your child to be one of those children. These were healthy kids who were dying.”

Questions submitted by email during the webcast demonstrated that members of the public remain confused about recommendations for vaccination against H1N1. Viewers from around the United States asked about when during pregnancy to take the H1N1 shot, whether a child turning 10 requires one shot or two, and whether people who had a respiratory illness in the autumn should still seek H1N1 vaccine.

(The answers: Anytime during pregnancy; if the child gets one shot while 9 and turns 10 before the second shot, that one shot is efficient; and yes, get vaccinated, because other organisms cause flu-like symptoms and thus that illness may not have conferred immunity.)

While acknowledging the cost of responding to the pandemic, and the pain to families who have had loved ones fall ill or die, the officials said H1N1 has had positive effects. They pointed to greater uptake of seasonal flu vaccine, establishment of new school-based clinics, trials of new treatments, greater acknowledgement of the need for sick leave, and overall increased awareness of flu as a serious health problem requiring a coordinated public and private response.

See also:

Dec 16 HHS webcast for healthcare providers
http://www.flu.gov/live/index.html

Death Panels? H1N1 shots refused to people over 64 years old ?

Posted in Death Panels, Flu Shot, H1N1, Health Care, Swine Flu, Vaccinations with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2009 by saynsumthn

I found this post on another Word Press Blog:Posted by Bob Aronson in journaling.

If you are over age 64 and you want the H1N1 flu vaccine (swine flu) forget it! Even if you meet the criteria set forth by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) you will not be allowed to get the vaccine. I know, today I was refused a shot. This development has great significance for everyone over 64 and especially transplant patients with compromised immune systems.

What also interested me were the responses to this post above – although some responded that they were over 64 and were able to get a Swine Flu Shot, many agreed that they were told they could not get one :

2. Jim – November 19, 2009
I recieved a liver transplant at the Mayo Clinic 3 years ago and when I called them to find out if I should have the H1N1 shot, they said “YES”. The only problem is they do not have it as it is not given to the clinic to dispense to us that need it. I checked in our area with the public health nurses and was told the same thing as you. I was told that members of a fire department were able to get the shot though. I will have to check on this more. I am on a volenteer fire department in my town, so maybe……., I hope.
Reply
3. Claire L. Safford – November 19, 2009
My local health department (Adams County, IL) gave me the same response — even though I, too, have a compromised immune system due to chemo/stem cell transplant at Mayo 3+ years ago, as well as diabetes and heart issues. It seems like the CDC guidelines leave a gaping hole for people like us, who fit all the guidelines but are over 64. I think it’s an oversight, rather that a rationing thingie, but it needs to be corrected.
5. Judie McConville – November 19, 2009
I, too, tried to get the shot. I had my heart transplant 2 years ago and told them at the local Health Dept. But because I’m over 64 they
wouldn’t give it to me. So, I simply and politely told the nurse on duty that I supposed that if I got the flu and died, it was OK because I was over 64. Go figure!

6. Markman – November 19, 2009
It is not fearmongering…open your eyes and look around. I know several high risk folks over 64 who were refused for age alone. I got my shot and it says right on the sheet you have to fill out that you must be under 64 years old.

READ: Death Panels, Eugenics, Rationing, Quality adjusted life ? what does Uncle Sam think your Life Value is?

READ: Death Panels? Rationing Gov’t Swine Flu shot ? Elderly “at Risk” man calls “Obama Out”

Skepticism on Swine Flu’s Danger Limits European Vaccine Demand

Posted in Flu Shot, H1N1, Swine Flu, Vaccinations with tags , , , , , , , on December 9, 2009 by saynsumthn

From Bloomberg

By Andrea Gerlin

Dec. 8 (Bloomberg) — Fewer Europeans are getting pandemic flu vaccine than typically get seasonal flu shots, as safety concerns and lower-than-expected death rates have damped demand.

The U.K., Ireland, Italy, Germany and France have vaccinated less than 10 percent of their populations, compared with 20 percent in Europe in a typical flu season. As a result, a fraction of the European Union’s 500 million people will be protected against the pandemic virus by early next year.

Public concerns that the vaccines made by GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Novartis AG and Baxter International Inc. may cause serious side effects have kept some Europeans on the sidelines since governments began vaccinating residents for free in October. That means Europe may donate more doses to poorer countries or experience a surge in hospital admissions if the virus mutates.

“If it’s not in the news anymore and if people don’t experience a lot of severe cases, to them it’s just a flu and not a pandemic flu in a way,” said Christian Ruef, professor of infectious disease and director of infection control at University Hospital Zurich. “The term pandemic to them is probably associated with more serious disease.”

The number of deaths is lower than what was predicted in worst-case scenarios after the virus first struck, Ruef said. Perceptions that the virus is mild may be hampering vaccination, he said.

The European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases said on Nov. 23 that it was concerned about “mixed levels of uptake” and opposition from anti-vaccine activists challenging the safety of and need for the shot. The vaccines made by London-based Glaxo, Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis and Deerfield, Illinois-based Baxter were approved for use by the European Medicines Agency.

Unpredictable Virus

“No one should reject a safe and effective vaccine when we are dealing with an unpredictable virus capable of killing children and young adults in their prime,” said Javier Garau, president of the Basel-based European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.

More than 8,768 people worldwide have died from swine flu since it was first identified in Mexico and the U.S. in April, the Geneva-based World Health Organization said on Dec. 4. More than 850 deaths have been reported in Europe since April, according to the Stockholm-based European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. As many as 500,000 people globally die of seasonal flu each year, according to the WHO.

Officials expect the virus to be prevalent again in 2010. The WHO in September decided to include swine flu in the vaccine for seasonal influenza in the next Southern Hemisphere flu season, meaning the agency believes it’s the most likely H1N1 strain to be circulating.

Polish Negotiations

Poland hasn’t used any vaccine so far, the country’s health ministry said.

We’ve been negotiating with producers for at least a month now because we want them to guarantee the vaccine’s safe and take responsibility for any unwanted side effects, and that’s something they don’t want to do,” said Piotr Olechno, a Polish Health Ministry spokesman. The government is in talks with five companies, Olechno said. He declined to name them.

The U.K. has shipped 10 million doses of swine flu vaccine to family doctors, who have inoculated about 1.6 million of the 9.3 million people in risk groups, England’s Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson said Dec. 3. That’s less than 2 percent of the country’s entire population of about 60 million.

Washing Hands

To reduce the risk of catching swine flu, Emma Murphy is washing her and her toddler’s hands more often, avoiding people with colds and stocking up on honey and lemon. She and her 17- month-old son won’t get immunized.

They put the vaccine out so quickly that I wouldn’t feel secure in giving it to him,” said Murphy, 29, a human resources assistant and student in Manchester, England, in an interview. “We’re being scared into making the decision by people saying children are dying.”

Italy had immunized 494,915 people out of about 60 million who live there as of Nov. 22, according to a Dec. 2 Health Ministry press release. France, where two patients died from a mutated version of the H1N1 virus that causes swine flu, has given pandemic shots to about 1.3 million people since Oct. 20, Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin said on Dec. 3. The French government has ordered 94 million doses of vaccine for the country’s 63 million people.

Hard Decision

Parisian Simone Cartier said she “agonized” over whether to have her daughters, ages 2 and 5, immunized against swine flu. She doesn’t know anyone who has had the illness. After reading about the vaccine, she became concerned that it was produced too quickly and contains an adjuvant, an ingredient that boosts the immune system’s response. She then spoke to her doctor and changed her mind. Two weeks ago, she waited three hours in a school gym to get Glaxo’s Pandemrix shot for herself and her daughters.

“The night before going I thought: Am I going to inject my children with this poison or in 20 years am I going to be in front of a judge with kids who are sick?” said Cartier, 35, who works in book production. “Five minutes before leaving, I wanted to turn around. I try not to think about it.”

In Ireland, more than 150,000 people in risk groups — pregnant women and people with underlying illnesses — had been vaccinated as of Nov. 25, Gerry Mulligan of the Health Service Executive said. The country has had lower-than-expected uptake among children under 5 since it began vaccinating them in mid- November, Mulligan said. Ireland started vaccinating schoolchildren on Nov. 30, he said.

In the German federal state of Thuringia, 150,000 of 2.3 million residents have been immunized since Nov. 9, according to Thuringia’s health department.

Bright Spot

Declining swine flu rates in some countries also may deter people from getting the vaccine. England reported the fourth consecutive weekly drop in new swine flu cases on Dec. 3. Visits to U.S. doctors for influenza-like illness fell to the lowest level in three months, the government said on Dec. 4.

One bright spot in Europe’s pandemic immunization effort is Scandinavia. A third of Sweden’s 9.2 million people are estimated to have gotten the swine flu shot as of Nov. 20, according to the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions. About 3.3 million doses of vaccine had been delivered to Sweden as of Nov. 20 and demand has outpaced supply.

“Everybody in my family got the shot,” said Jenny Mattisson, 36, a mother of three who lives in a suburb of Stockholm and usually doesn’t get a seasonal flu shot. “Our daughter is in a risk group so we wanted to try to minimize the chance of her getting sick, but I would have taken it anyway. I think it’s a good idea to get the vaccine; it helps slow it from spreading.”

Norway, U.S. Demand

Norway, where mutations in the H1N1 virus have been detected among two patients who died of the flu and one who was severely ill, had vaccinated all 1.2 million people in its risk groups as of Nov. 24, almost 25 percent of its total population, said Bjoerne-Inge Larsen, director general of Norway’s Directorate of Health. Finland has immunized about 1 million people, or 19 percent of its population, the government said on Nov. 26.

In the U.S., demand for the vaccine has been strong, with quick uptake of doses as they become available and waiting times at many providers, said Joseph Quimby, a spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in an interview on Dec. 4. Doctors had administered about 20 million shots by mid- November. Health officials plan to release updated estimates of inoculations in the next few weeks, Quimby said.

There were 73 million vaccine doses available for distribution by the end of last week and an additional 10 million doses arriving this week, CDC director Thomas Frieden said in a press conference Dec. 4. Some states are beginning to offer the shots to a wider audience, after initial supplies were focused on protecting pregnant women, children and adults with chronic health conditions.