Shortfall in flu vaccines due to global demand
17 August 2006, BRUSSELS — The Belgian Health Ministry has only been able to buy 2.35 million flu vaccines for the coming winter, almost 100,000 fewer than last year despite the fact demand could rise.
17 August 2006
BRUSSELS — The Belgian Health Ministry has only been able to buy 2.35 million flu vaccines for the coming winter, almost 100,000 fewer than last year despite the fact demand could rise.
Family doctors, retirement home doctors and pro-vaccination advocates fear that there will be a shortage of flu vaccines, newspaper 'De Standaard' reported on Thursday.
They claim that the rate of vaccination among the elderly, pregnant women, the chronically sick, medical staff and other risk groups is too low and must be dramatically increased.
Moreover, they also expect — and hope — that the general public will opt to vaccinate themselves against the flu virus.
But alarm bells were sounded after Federal Health Minister Rudy Demotte said he is investigating whether the general subsidy for the vaccine that was introduced last year can be scaled back and restricted to risk groups.
The High Health Council has confirmed that the government has only been able to buy 2.35 million vaccines this year. So too has the new chief of the federal medicines agency, Piet Vanthemsche, who has been instructed to "manage the scarcity".
The Health Ministry said Demotte — under these circumstances — is in favour of restricting the refund to the target groups "because they must have priority".
Vanthemsche said the government will continue trying to buy more flu vaccines, pointing out that a second delivery was secured in November last year. He said production was not a problem, but instead rising global demand for flu vaccines.
The medicines agency chief also downplayed speculation of a alarming shortage of vaccines, claiming that the public now knows a flu vaccine offers no protection against bird flu.
Some 40,000 doses from the 2.43 million vaccines were not used last year, despite high demand due to bird flu fears.
[Copyright Expatica News 2006]
Subject: Belgian news