Health Ministry to keep swine flu vaccine doses in storage

J'lem health officials intend to hold on to more than 3 million doses that were not used, because they might be needed in fall or winter.

April 8, 2010 06:32
2 minute read.
The Jerusalem Post

flu vaccine 248.88. (photo credit: Bloomberg)


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Although the US government may discard millions of superfluous H1N1 swine flu vaccines, the Health Ministry told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that it intends to keep its remaining supplies in storage.

Jerusalem health officials said they intend to hold on to the more than three million doses that were purchased and not used due to lack of demand, because they might be needed in the fall or winter.

The ministry said that the expiration dates on the vaccines it purchased in the US and Europe have not passed.

By the decision of Prime Minister and Health Minister Binyamin Netanyahu almost a year ago, seven million doses of the vaccine were bought at a cost of some NIS 400 million. But fewer than a million Israelis were vaccinated.

About 2.5 million doses that had not yet arrived in Israel were exchanged for credit from the pharmaceutical companies that made them, but the rest remain in ministry storehouses.

The Washington Post reported this week that less than half of the 229 million doses of H1N1 vaccine that the US government bought to protect its population from the fizzled-out, now-forgotten “pandemic” were used to vaccinate the public. Around 85 million people were actually injected, the paper said, with most others feeling they did not need it or that it was offered too late.

An estimated 60 million of the remaining vaccine doses will be donated to poor countries or saved for possible future use. But doses already in vials and syringes will be thrown away if not used before their expiration dates pass, the paper wrote.

It reported that unexpected production problems delayed delivery of most of the vaccine until after the second wave of infections had peaked, causing many Americans to panic due to the lack of available vaccine. When they became available, the “pandemic” had passed.

But health officials in Atlanta’s Centers for Disease Control said they were mostly happy with the vaccination effort, the Washington paper said.

The Health Ministry in Jerusalem was less successful, and while there was enough vaccine for everybody, most people pooh-poohed the possible danger and didn’t take the shot. A NIS 10 million publicity campaign by the ministry came too late to change many minds.

About 85 Israelis, mostly of them with serious chronic illness, reportedly died of the flu strain, even though none underwent an autopsy to prove the connection.

The Washington Post reported that the World Health Organization faces mounting charges that it overreacted to the pandemic. The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly is investigating allegations that the Geneva-based arm of the UN was influenced by pharmaceutical companies to exaggerate the risk, thereby boosting vaccine sales.

WHO officials have strongly disputed the charges, saying the response was vital given the uncertainty about the new virus and its potential threat.

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